Do People Fear the Government or the Virus More?

News & Politics

For the past few weeks, I’ve been testing New York state’s mask mandate—which isn’t much of a mandate at all but more of a strongly worded suggestion. Governor Kathy Hochul decided that she would put the responsibility of enforcing her ridiculous mandate on the counties. When counties responded by telling her to shove it, she essentially caved.

Rest assured, I’ve never had to wear a mask anywhere in a store in a county that wasn’t enforcing Hochul’s mandate. In fact, I often forget that the mandate is technically still in place. It’s been a couple of weeks (I think) since anyone has ever given me the slightest bit of resistance, but still, I’ve never been told to mask up or leave. Whether it’s grocery shopping or going to a restaurant or a movie, I’ve never covered my face. I’m done with that nonsense. I’m fully vaccinated. I’ve done my part.

My son received a few gift cards for a department store at Christmas, and he’s been itching to spend them. So we had two options: (1) go in a New York county enforcing the mask mandate, or (2) drive all the way down to Pennsylvania, where there are no mask mandates of any kind, and go there.

We went to Pennsylvania, and it was a very telling experience.

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In New York, it seems like roughly 15 percent of the people who are out in public are maskless. However, in Pennsylvania, approximately 15 percent of the people out in public are masked. While this is just an estimate from my observations, this still speaks volumes. Keep in mind that Pennsylvania is experiencing a surge of omicron cases, just like New York. Yet, two places, separated only by an imaginary line and less than a hundred miles, have entirely different masking behaviors.

I had an epiphany during this outing. Though I’m sure I’ve known this for some time, it became ever so clear that we’ve reached a point in this pandemic where fear of the disease has been eclipsed by the fear of social or government reprisal. In New York, I see people wear masks because they think they have to because of the mandate, or they’re worried about what other people will think. Believe me when I tell you that often all it takes for people to ditch their masks is for someone else to do it first.

Americans are ready for things to get back to normal. COVID is out there, and it’s going to do what it’s going to do. How many times do you have to see on social media that someone who was fully vaxxed, fully boostered, and always wears a mask got COVID anyway? It’s happening. We’re all going to be exposed to it eventually–if we haven’t been already. Some people choose to live in fear; others prefer to enjoy life and accept the risks. And it’s pretty clear that what drives the former is the government. Otherwise, the masking rates in Pennsylvania and New York, within a hundred-mile radius, wouldn’t be so drastically different.

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