Public Health Theater Of The Absurd

When “Karen” tells me “I follow science”, I’ve taken to silently appending, often (but by no means always) in my mind, “you absorbed a CDC announcement a little over a year ago”.

The people maniacally scrubbing surfaces? As re Covid, it’s largely a wasted effort.

Via the Atlantic, which nearly along among periodicals has done a good job of actual journalism as re public health:

Whenever I’ve written about hygiene theater, some people have responded with the same objection: “Hey, what’s the matter with washing our hands?” That’s an easy one: Absolutely nothing. “Pandemic or no pandemic, you should wash your hands, especially after you prepare food, go to the bathroom,” or touch something yucky, Goldman said.

But hygiene theater carries with it an immense opportunity cost. Too many institutions spend scarce funds or sacrifice scarce resources to do microbial battle against fomites that don’t pose a real threat. This is especially true of cash-strapped urban-transit authorities and school districts that have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on soap technology rather than their central task of transporting and teaching people.

Hygiene theater also muddles the public-health message. If you tell people, “This disease is on surfaces, on your clothes, on your hands, on your face, and also in the air,” they will react in a scattered and scared way. But if you tell people the truth—this virus doesn’t do very well on surfaces, so you should focus on ventilation—they can protect themselves against what matters.

Of course, if you read this blog (and, to be fair, this blog’s citing of writers in The Atlantic), you had a solid hunch about this nearly a year ago.

11 thoughts on “Public Health Theater Of The Absurd

  1. Went to Target and Aldi the other day, plenty of (hand) sanitizers and at good prices too.

  2. But hygiene theater carries with it an immense opportunity cost. Too many institutions spend scarce funds or sacrifice scarce resources to do microbial battle against fomites that don’t pose a real threat.
    And this is problem with “safety culture.”
    The best outcome results when you use reason, not rules, to make a decision.
    It is not mentioned often enough that any of us can die a horrible death at any time. And even if you live a long, full life, dying of heart disease or cancer ain’t a picnic. And that is if you are lucky.
    Wearing a mask is paid for in opportunity costs. Their is the cost and effort put into creating the mask, the effort to make certain you carry one, the difficulty it causes in breathing normally (it increases the effort it takes to keep serum CO2 in balance). There is also an immense cost paid in misunderstanding. Human beings are social creatures, we watch the faces of other people while they watch ours. When we see a crowd of people, we scan faces, we don’t try to listen to what everyone is saying.
    People have an array of defenses to defeat airborne communicable disease. Some are biological, some are behavioral.
    Who is the person able to determine if you should wear a mask?
    A health bureaucrat who knows nothing about you, and politicians who look at you as either a problem or a checkbook, says the elite.

  3. Why, only three years ago, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth from the media, quoting sources in the medical industry, over the overuse of anti bacterial soaps, because it was damaging our immunity. That’s about the time that super bugs that are resistant to currently available anti biopics, started showing up. Funny. Nobody was advocating masks, increased hand washing or social distancing. Funnier yet how the narrative changed to suit a political agenda.

    On another note, the Bloomington Jefferson girls hockey coach, died at the hands of a social distancing Karen. This Karen punched him, causing him to fall backward down a stairway, hitting his head. Michael Ryan was 48. He left behind a wife and two teenaged daughters. Yet again, the ridiculous precautions for the ChiCom virus claim a victim.

  4. Boss, if I can correct your account of the death of the hockey coach. The man who punched him had punched a hole in cellophane blocking a urinal in the bar and then videoed himself peeing through the hole. The coach confronted him and later the fight started. A huge unnecessary tragedy brought about by pointless restrictions and too much alcohol. My wife used to baby sit the guy who’s now going to prison for a long time.

  5. Hygiene theater… security theater… are we living on stage with our strings being pulled by the invisible puppet masters? Why, yes we are!

  6. The Atlantic is about as good of a mainstream source as you can find these days. They veer left a lot, but sometimes they can’t help themselves when the reporting leads the other way, and they go with it. They were also my “go-to” for tracking COVID spread; I’d go to their data page and update my own spreadsheets about once a week. Unfortunately, just as we are in the vaccination stage and it becomes especially interesting to see how different states are doing (and comparing it curves over the course of the pandemic), they decided that the one-year anniversary (March 4) was a good time to stop tracking. I’m sure the data is out there, but it’s going to take me a bit more work to get to it.

  7. My favorite public health theater of the absurd is that the track meets my kids are running at require face masks outside, and about 3/4 of the perimeter of the track is officially off limits to spectators. Because, apparently, jamming people together as if they were tenement dwellers is the way to stop infectious disease. Total idiocy.

  8. Pingback: In The Mailbox: 04.22.21 (Afternoon Edition) : The Other McCain

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