This week the New York Times published a hard-hitting bit of investigative journalism examining the need to wear a mask outdoors as protection against COVID-19.

The piece made mention of something called the “two out of three” rule offered up by a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech named Linsey Marr.

Marr suggested the people confused about mask wearing outside should follow this rule of thumb:

• If you are outdoors and social distancing, you don’t need a mask.

• If you are outdoors but not social distancing, you should wear a mask.

• If you’re distancing, but you’re not outdoors, you should wear a mask.

This Nobel worthy rule came complete with illustrations for those of us

too stupid to understand words.

If things like this make you feel like “follow the science” left the room a long time ago and now we are playing a game of darts in the dark when it comes to COVID-19, you’re probably not alone.

A sizable slice of the populace has felt this way since March of 2020, and it has little do with whether or not they “believe” in COVID and has absolutely nothing to do with politics despite the constant chorus of liberal chatter that a certain demo of voters don’t think the virus is real.

People know it is real. There is no denying we are living through a genuine worldwide pandemic.

That being said, it isn’t wrong to doubt or question our government’s response to it and whether it has been - or ever will be - effective.

And how can you not question everything when one day the official voices on the subject such as the CDC or, closer to home, the Minnesota Department of Health, say one thing, and the next day they say something completely different?

How can you trust their words when out of one side of their collective mouths they tell you that leaving a middle seat open on an airplane (a flying germ machine) can reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 by 57% while out of the other side of their mouth they are telling you that teenagers playing baseball or softball outside, spread out by many feet in all directions, should wear masks to prevent the spread?

It just all feels so random and in conflict with common sense.

The reality is we probably won’t know definitively what worked to slow the spread and what didn’t for years, or at the very least, until politics plays less of a role in the process.

After the blame games are done and the dust settles, maybe then we will finally have enough experience, evidence and unobjective facts to say definitively what we have been dealing with.

Or maybe not. Maybe we will never truly know. Maybe it never really mattered in the first place. It seems to me that trying to control the spread of a virus is nearly impossible and throwing everything you can think of at it for a year based on hunches and guesses is why we hear so many friends and neighbors utter the phrase “I’m so over this” every time a new COVID rule contradicting an old rule comes down from on high.

Like when the CDC told us we shouldn’t touch anything, and you couldn’t find toilet paper anywhere.

For parts of 2020 a lot of people were wearing rubber gloves everywhere they went and were spraying down every item purchased at a store, every credit and debit card reader in every store, every desk and pencil and door-knob in the school’s that dared to open this past fall and we were all going through hand sanitizer like it was water.

Today, there are warnings that too much hand sanitizer is a bad thing, and the CDC says the chances of getting COVID from an object through touch is basically impossible. According to one report you’d have to touch a minimum of 10,000 door-knobs touched by people with COVID to even have a remote chance of getting it that way.

Part of the problem here is the idea that man can control a virus. That seems very presumptuous to me. But our collective ego is such that the idea anything can challenge a human being for leadership of the clan is a ridiculous notion.

And so we come up with plans and plots and lists and mandates and illogical assumptions that keeping a certain distance and not one inch closer, setting curfews for businesses, or wearing loose fitting cloth masks while outside will somehow save the day.

Meanwhile, in many cases the facts and figures and charts readily available to all tell a different story.

When it comes to masks, for example, one look at the MDH website will show you what the Minnesota media fails to report time and time again – COVID-19 cases and deaths spiked to their highest peaks after mask mandates were put into place and while the movement of Minnesotans were highly restricted.

While our restaurants and churches and small businesses sat empty or saw half their normal traffic, and we all hid from our extended families during the holidays COVID blew through the state.

Would it have been worse without masks? I’m sure someone somewhere knows or at least thinks they know the answer but if they gave you that answer would even believe it at this point?

Wake me when it’s over.

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