This week Buncombe County dropped its indoor mask mandate, following a nationwide trend, but we don’t take health advice from politicians and we don’t wear masks because they told us to.
Since reopening in May of last year, we have ignored the politics and listened to public health professionals who have consistently recommended masking as one of the most effective, least invasive actions available to us, capable of reducing COVID transmission by more than 50%. While wearing a mask may be an inconvenience, it is a small sacrifice in the face of mass death. And that mass death is very much ongoing.
In 2020, political reactionaries scandalized the public by suggesting that elders, the chronically ill, and disabled communities should volunteer to die for the economy. Two years later we can see that mass sacrifice has become the policy embraced by two presidents and both political parties. This hasty turn away from masking appears to us as yet another political calculation at the expense of public health, yet many of us have become numb to the losses. Last month a staggering 70,000 US Americans died and it was barely a story. A society that turns away from this level of suffering can only be described as morally bankrupt.
As anarchists we espouse an ethic of freedom, including the freedom to take risks with our lives and bodies. But a refusal of simple precautions like masking extends individual risk to our entire community. Getting “back to normal” has stripped millions of people of their freedom, in the most profound and existential sense.
This mask mandate—ineffectual and unevenly enforced—is gone and we aren’t asking for it back. When you walk into our bookstore and we ask you to put on a mask, it isn’t to satisfy some regulatory requirement, it’s out of a deep love for our community, for our immunocompromised co-workers and neighbors, for our exhausted friends in clinics, and for everyone who will be impacted by the next variant. Put on your mask!
PS - Need fresh KN95 respirators? Our co-op still has free masks and rapid tests available for local community members to pick up!