Patrons at a restaurant in Austin, Texas, go without masks after Texas ended its mask mandate earlier this month. (Tamir Kalifa / Getty Images)
By C. Douglas Golden
Published March 28, 2021, at 9:32 am
It turns out “Neanderthal thinking” can end up working out.
On March 3, speaking to reporters at the White House after a bipartisan meeting in the Oval Office, President Joe Biden was asked by reporters what he thought of the decisions of two state governors to roll back mask mandates and limits on business occupancy, among other things.
“Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now, these masks make a difference,” Biden said. “We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way with which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms. We’ve been able to move that all the way up to the end of May to have enough for every American, to get every adult American to get a shot.
“The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, ‘everything is fine, take off your masks, forget it.’ It still matters.”
The major reason this comment raised eyebrows when it was made was because the two states that had ended the mask mandates were Mississippi and Texas, both Southern states with Republican governors.
The subtext seemed to be Biden was dog-whistling that these governors were tired of trying to figure out this Zoom thingy-mah-bob to hold their weekly poker game and didn’t much like wearing masks or social distancing when they held the game around the ol’ cracker barrel like in the old days, seeing as it interferes with tobacco-spitting. Perhaps that’s not quite what he was thinking, but there were more than a few blue checkmarks on Twitter who were, no doubt.
In the meantime, we had reporters talking about a “[m]ass casualty event every day” in Texas at the time the mask mandate and occupancy limits were being lifted. Networks gave coverage to the battle lines being drawn in Texas between businesses that continued to enforce a mask mandate and those that didn’t. (No points as to who got the glowing coverage.)
Now, the reason that “Neanderthal thinking” quote should come across so badly in retrospect is that it turns out the “Neanderthal thinking” was correct.
In a Twitter post Thursday, three weeks after the mandate was lifted, Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott noted how wrong those who predicted the apocalypse were:
“Today Texas had the lowest reported Covid 7-day positivity rate in more than a year: 5.68%,” Abbott tweeted. “Covid hospitalizations went down again–to the lowest level in more than 5 months.
“Vaccine supplies are increasing & all adult Texans are eligible to get them beginning Monday. Good job.”
But how does this compare to other states, you may ask? Abbott could be taking credit for a trend he did nothing to create.
Prominent Twitter conservative “AG” compared the charts showing cases in Texas vs. cases in New York:
If you click on the image on the left, that’s the cases in Texas, dropping since the beginning of March. New York’s, on the right, were mostly flat during the same three-week period.
Nationally, CNBC reported Saturday, the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases is up 12 percent over the past week over the past week, despite an increase in vaccinations.
“I remain deeply concerned about this trajectory,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky at a White House media briefing Friday, according to Fox News.
“We have seen cases and hospital admissions move from historic declines to stagnations and increases. We know from prior surges that if we don’t control things now, there is a real potential for the epidemic curve to soar again.”
When Walensky talks about how we needs to “control things now,” that’s obviously code for reining in “Neanderthal thinking.”
After all, remember the predictions? Guy Benson, Townall political editor and Fox News contributor, certainly did.
“The examples of hysteria are endless, and many of the worst appeared on this very website. I was concerned it could be premature, but also had the humility to recognize how many of the doomsday predictions had failed to materialize elsewhere. Repeatedly,” Benson added.
“No one is out of the woods yet, but the ‘death sentence’ dystopia so shrilly and confidently predicted by so many hasn’t developed in TX, weeks after Gov Abbott supposedly unleashed mass suffering. And as the graphs show, restriction-heavy NY is in a significantly worse spot.”
Or, to put it another way:
When “15 days to flatten the curve” didn’t work and round after round of mandates didn’t work, there were plenty of things to blame. There was lockdown fatigue, anti-maskers, those darn young’uns and their supposed sense of invulnerability, the “independent spirit” of Americans.
There was always something that meant we just had to tighten the leash more so that people really got it.
Apparently, we can only learn from the Neanderthal slowly.
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