In a surprising about face, the liberal-leaning website Slate has told its readers to stop wearing masks if they’re outdoors. The advice from Slate contradicts suggestions from Biden’s health advisor for the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who insists on wearing masks—even double masking, if possible.
Slate’s call for de-masking comes amid a widespread, albeit largely conservative effort to stop wearing masks outdoors due to the perceived effectiveness of COVID vaccinations and data from Republican-run states that show decreasing case rates in states that repealed their mask mandates in contrast to blue states with rates that remain high despite harsh lockdowns.
In an article titled “It’s About Time for Us To Stop Wearing Masks Outside,” the publication makes a case for why the practice might not make any sense at all.
“For a while now, this has felt a little unnecessary, if understandable, given that we were still learning things about the virus and were trying to be as careful as possible,” wrote Slate’s senior editor Shannon Palus. “But now, as we’ve come to know more about the virus, as vaccinations are ramping up, and as we’re trying to figure out how to live with some level of COVID in a sustainable way, masking up outside when you’re at most briefly crossing paths with people is starting to feel barely understandable.”
“Look: I believe masks (and even shaming) are indispensable in controlling the spread of the coronavirus,” she added. “Despite early waffling, public health experts are virtually unanimously in support of them and have remained so even as our early dedication to scrubbing surfaces and Cloroxing veggies wound down.”
Palus denies that the possibility of catching the illness from passing someone on the street poses any significant danger, and cites statistics to back up her argument.
Citing an article by infectious disease expert from McMaster University, Zain Chagla, Palus says that Toronto’s large outdoor gatherings last summer coincided with an all-time low of cases in the city. Chagla suggested that while it’s important to wear a mask when in close proximity with other people in enclosed spaces, the general message is that “outdoors is a safe place to be.”
Palus suggests that the chances of getting sick from someone outdoors would require a precise set of circumstances: “First, you or the person you’re passing would have to happen to have an asymptomatic infection, he explained, and then everyone would have to be exhaling and inhaling at just the right moment, and also, exchanging enough particles to actually seed another infection: ‘You’re talking about a probability of getting hit by a car, and being struck by lightning.’”
The writer additionally cited a paper published in Indoor Air that looked at over a thousand cases in China and found only a single instance of outdoor transmission, which involved two people having a face-to-face conversation. She further cited data from the Irish Times, which found that of the 232,164 cases in the country, only 262 were associated with the outdoors.
“That is, about 0.1 percent,” she wrote.