I would like to lodge a complaint about wearing face masks.

No one can tell if you’re smiling.

You see others on the sidewalk, in the store’s hand-sanitizer aisle, in the appropriately spaced fast food takeout line, and their eyes alone fail to accurately convey whether they are regarding you with suspicion, derision or warmth, if they are regarding you at all. Turns out the curvature of one’s lips is a key and underappreciated element of interpersonal communication.

Other than that, I can’t figure out what the big deal is. Masks help block microscopic stuff from flying in and out of your mouth and nose at a time when that seems especially important. Pretty simple.

But, we come to find out, it’s not simple at all.

Requiring face masks violates something in the Constitution, somewhere. Oh, here it is: “My rights don’t end where your fears begin.” Or is that a bumper sticker?

There’s enough to be angry about in this world already without raging over 6-inch squares of fabric. Phishing scams, gang drive-bys, drunken street racers. Somehow, though, some people these days seem most exercised about masks.

Not so much in New York. A surge of COVID-19 cases overwhelmed New York City’s health care system three months ago and hospitals upstate braced for what seemed like an inevitable onslaught. They prepared to triage patients in hallways and cafeterias.

It never happened. New York health authorities say closing nonessential businesses and getting public buy-in on masks and distancing ended the crisis. If New York City’s high population density helped feed the virus 22,000 lives over a few horrific weeks, those three simple steps — masks foremost among them — all but starved it.

That lesson apparently has no bearing on Kern County, though. We are different here: Barely 100 deaths and an overly dramatic governmental response. What exactly makes COVID-19 worse than the regular flu?

Here, mandatory masks epitomize the wussification of America. They’re nothing more than wearable political correctness. The ultimate nanny state overreach. Some sort of semi-secret lib armband, but for your face.

Where’s my Constitution?

Most people grasp that masks, imperfect though they may be as guards against infection, are worth the level-one hassle. Every credible medical organization, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on down, says the simple precaution of wearing a mask is the difference between a pandemic controlled and a pandemic fueled.

Yet we continue to see the smirks on unmasked faces.

Remember those doctors, nurses and medical professionals we’ve been hailing as the heroes of this health crisis? With resounding unanimity, they tell us the single most important thing we can do to knock back this virus is wear a mask when we’re out.

Way to go, Doc. Now pipe down and get back to work. I’ll pay attention as soon as this overblown virus hits someone I care about.

Ignoring front-line health care professionals right now is a little like telling a World War II veteran that the Nazis were just misunderstood. But thank you for your service.

Why do some of us behave this way?

I blame the greatness of America. Literally, the traits that made the United States the most desirable place on earth to live, a singular target of aspiration and envy, a symbol of freedom and hope in a world sick of tyranny and turmoil, are the same traits that foster, at least within a distinct demographic slice of the country, a unique sort of arrogance.

A national character built on the foundation of Manifest Destiny and the belief that perseverance and fortitude can overcome any obstacle is the same one that, unenlightened by the true responsibilities of citizenship, confuses rights with privileges and license with obligation.

Cowboys don’t wear masks unless the cattle are stirring up dust.

The rest of the world must look at us and shake their heads.

B-b-but back in March the medical establishment was telling us masks were of no benefit. Well, the medical establishment was wrong about that and has been saying so for months.

Face masks have emerged as one of the most powerful weapons available in this battle. As The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, growing evidence suggests that facial coverings can help prevent transmission even if an infected wearer is in close contact with others.

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Journal of the American Medical Association this week that he believes the virus can be corralled over the next four to eight weeks if “we could get everybody to wear a mask right now.”

We’ll complain about restaurants and bars closing, small businesses suffering, sport leagues shutting down, and in the same breath reject the simplest protection because it looks wimpy and makes our glasses fog.

On Saturday, the Kern County Public Health Services Department reported 495 new COVID-19 cases, double the number of any previous single day.

Shut up and put on a damn mask.

Robert Price is a journalist for KGET-TV. His column appears here Sundays. Reach him at RobertPrice@KGET.com or via Twitter: @stubblebuzz. The opinions expressed are his own.

Recommended for you

(8) comments

Masked 2020

Dog is a TrumpLemming


So... Robert, only your sources and beliefs are correct? https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/04/commentary-masks-all-covid-19-not-based-sound-data

Unruly Panda

The authors you cite state "we support mask wearing by the general public" and "a cloth mask is appropriate only for source control". That is exactly the point that mask critics fail to understand. The cloth mask is not for your protection, it is for reducing your likelihood of spreading the virus to those around you. Also, they do not reduce the need for physical distancing. The authors state that cloth masks "should not be recommended as a replacement for physical distancing or reducing time in enclosed spaces with many potentially infectious people." Also note that the study specifically addresses cloth masks, not surgical or N95 equivalent devices, which are much more effective at particle control. In short, wear the mask, physical distance, and limit the amount of time you spend indoors with crowds. Do YOUR JOB to protect those around you and if they do THEIR JOB to protect you, then the spread will be reduced. It's not rocket science, it just requires us to act like rational individuals, instead of spoiled children who whine about minor inconveniences.

Unruly Panda

But the men don't cover their faces, do they? It takes two, baby.


In the middle east woman are forced to cover their face, for centuries. They are used to wearing masks. Do they catch the Wuhan virus? Look at the numbers.

This is the state of the press in America.



If you don’t like wearing a face mask, you’re REALLY going to hate being on a ventilator! Wake up Bakersfield -- 719 new cases reported today. Wear a mask, stay 6 feet away from strangers and wash your hands throughout the day.


You telling us that the progress of this illness, in every case, goes from not wearing a mask to using a ventilator? The folks who need to be cautious are the elderly and those with preexisting conditions. One of those conditions includes the obese.


Nope. Please re-read my comments -- I didn't say that. Also, "the folks that need to be cautious are" EVERYBODY... unless you enjoy being sick, or possibly infecting someone else. Note that there have been 8,000+ diagnosed people in Kern county aged 18-64 -- just wondering which one of your two "need to be cautious" groups you're putting them into? Age breakdown of positive cases: 17 and under = 1,108 cases. 18-49 years = 6,196 cases. 50-64 years = 1,807 cases. 65 and older = 957 cases.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.