Twitter account @YearCovid is tweeting COVID-19 stories that were published a year ago. Some of those stories, of course, involve infamously bad predictions and advice.
Take Dr. David Powell, medical adviser to the International Air Transport Association, for example. On February 5, 2020, Bloomberg published an interview with Dr. Powell in which he was pretty much wrong about everything. You can tell where this is going given that the article was titled, “Forget masks to Avoid Coronavirus on Flights Says Airline Doctor.”
Among other stellar insight, Powell scoffs at the idea that there will be any widespread change in behavior due to COVID-19,
Will people stop getting together inside an airplane? I would respond by asking: Will I stop going to the movies, or sports games, or concerts or conferences? I don’t think so.
And, don’t even think about wearing masks–they apparently are more likely to spread disease than they prevent it,
First of all, masks. There’s very limited evidence of benefit, if any, in a casual situation. Masks are useful for those who are unwell to protect other people from them. But wearing a mask all the time will be ineffective. It will allow viruses to be transmitted around it, through it and worse still, if it becomes moist it will encourage the growth of viruses and bacteria.
Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked about whether or not it made sense to wear two masks, and said,
We get asked all the time, should we be double masking? The CDC makes recommendations based on data that they accumulate because it’s a science-based organization. Right now they are looking at these different options of mask-wearing. In the meantime, as I often get asked, should you be wearing two masks or one mask? And I say, there’s no recommendation. However, there are many people who take the common sense approach. If you’re talking about a physical barrier, and as the CDC recommends, you want at least two layers within the mask as a physical barrier, and you feel maybe more of a physical barrier would be better. There’s nothing wrong with people wearing two masks. I often myself wear two masks. Can we make a general recommendation that doesn’t have scientific basis yet? No. But when the science comes along and tells us that it is better or not, then you will see a recommendation being made by the CDC.
Personally, I have taken to wearing two masks whenever I am in a situation where there are likely to be a lot of people around, such as while grocery shopping. I typically wear a single-use, three-layer mask and then a cloth mask over the top of that. Along with any (as yet unproven) benefit to wearing two masks, it also helps the disposable mask have a tighter fit around the edges of my face.
On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order mandating mask-wearing on federal property.
Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing
JANUARY 20, 2021 • PRESIDENTIAL ACTIONS
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 7902(c) of title 5, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of my Administration to halt the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by relying on the best available data and science-based public health measures. Such measures include wearing masks when around others, physical distancing, and other related precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Put simply, masks and other public health measures reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when communities make widespread use of such measures, and thus save lives.
Accordingly, to protect the Federal workforce and individuals interacting with the Federal workforce, and to ensure the continuity of Government services and activities, on-duty or on-site Federal employees, on-site Federal contractors, and other individuals in Federal buildings and on Federal lands should all wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidelines.
Sec. 2. Immediate Action Regarding Federal Employees, Contractors, Buildings, and Lands. (a) The heads of executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall immediately take action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to require compliance with CDC guidelines with respect to wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and other public health measures by: on-duty or on-site Federal employees; on-site Federal contractors; and all persons in Federal buildings or on Federal lands.
(b) The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Administrator of General Services, in coordination with the President’s Management Council and the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator), shall promptly issue guidance to assist heads of agencies with implementation of this section.
(c) Heads of agencies shall promptly consult, as appropriate, with State, local, Tribal, and territorial government officials, Federal employees, Federal employee unions, Federal contractors, and any other interested parties concerning the implementation of this section.
(d) Heads of agencies may make categorical or case-by-case exceptions in implementing subsection (a) of this section to the extent that doing so is necessary or required by law, and consistent with applicable law. If heads of agencies make such exceptions, they shall require appropriate alternative safeguards, such as additional physical distancing measures, additional testing, or reconfiguration of workspace, consistent with applicable law. Heads of agencies shall document all exceptions in writing.
(e) Heads of agencies shall review their existing authorities and, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations and resources, seek to provide masks to individuals in Federal buildings when needed.
(f) The COVID-19 Response Coordinator shall coordinate the implementation of this section. Heads of the agencies listed in 31 U.S.C. 901(b) shall update the COVID-19 Response Coordinator on their progress in implementing this section, including any categorical exceptions established under subsection (d) of this section, within 7 days of the date of this order and regularly thereafter. Heads of agencies are encouraged to bring to the attention of the COVID-19 Response Coordinator any questions regarding the scope or implementation of this section.
Sec. 3. Encouraging Masking Across America. (a) The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), including through the Director of CDC, shall engage, as appropriate, with State, local, Tribal, and territorial officials, as well as business, union, academic, and other community leaders, regarding mask-wearing and other public health measures, with the goal of maximizing public compliance with, and addressing any obstacles to, mask-wearing and other public health best practices identified by CDC.
(b) The COVID-19 Response Coordinator, in coordination with the Secretary of HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall promptly identify and inform agencies of options to incentivize, support, and encourage widespread mask-wearing consistent with CDC guidelines and applicable law.
Sec. 4. Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.
(a) Establishment. There is hereby established the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (Task Force).
(b) Membership. The Task Force shall consist of the following members:
(i) the Director of OPM, who shall serve as Co-Chair;
(ii) the Administrator of General Services, who shall serve as Co-Chair;
(iii) the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, who shall serve as Co-Chair;
(iv) the Director of OMB;
(v) the Director of the Federal Protective Service;
(vi) the Director of the United States Secret Service;
(vii) the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency;
(viii) the Director of CDC; and
(ix) the heads of such other agencies as the Co-Chairs may individually or jointly invite to participate.
(c) Organization. A member of the Task Force may designate, to perform the Task Force functions of the member, a senior-level official who is a full-time officer or employee of the member’s agency. At the direction of the Co-Chairs, the Task Force may establish subgroups consisting exclusively of Task Force members or their designees, as appropriate.
(d) Administration. The General Services Administration shall provide funding and administrative support for the Task Force to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations. The Co-Chairs shall convene regular meetings of the Task Force, determine its agenda, and direct its work.
(e) Mission. The Task Force shall provide ongoing guidance to heads of agencies on the operation of the Federal Government, the safety of its employees, and the continuity of Government functions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such guidance shall be based on public health best practices as determined by CDC and other public health experts, and shall address, at a minimum, the following subjects as they relate to the Federal workforce:
(i) testing methodologies and protocols;
(ii) case investigation and contact tracing;
(iii) requirements of and limitations on physical distancing, including recommended occupancy and density standards;
(iv) equipment needs and requirements, including personal protective equipment;
(v) air filtration;
(vi) enhanced environmental disinfection and cleaning;
(vii) safe commuting and telework options;
(viii) enhanced technological infrastructure to support telework;
(ix) vaccine prioritization, distribution, and administration;
(x) approaches for coordinating with State, local, Tribal, and territorial health officials, as well as business, union, academic, and other community leaders;
(xi) any management infrastructure needed by agencies to implement public health guidance; and
(xii) circumstances under which exemptions might appropriately be made to agency policies in accordance with CDC guidelines, such as for mission-critical purposes.
(f) Agency Cooperation. The head of each agency listed in 31 U.S.C. 901(b) shall, consistent with applicable law, promptly provide the Task Force a report on COVID-19 safety protocols, safety plans, or guidance regarding the operation of the agency and the safety of its employees, and any other information that the head of the agency deems relevant to the Task Force’s work.
Sec. 5. Federal Employee Testing. The Secretary of HHS, through the Director of CDC, shall promptly develop and submit to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator a testing plan for the Federal workforce. This plan shall be based on community transmission metrics and address the populations to be tested, testing types, frequency of testing, positive case protocols, and coordination with local public health authorities for contact tracing.
Sec. 6. Research and Development. The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with the Secretary of HHS (through the National Science and Technology Council), the Director of OMB, the Director of CDC, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, the Director of the National Science Foundation, and the heads of any other appropriate agencies, shall assess the availability of Federal research grants to study best practices for implementing, and innovations to better implement, effective mask-wearing and physical distancing policies, with respect to both the Federal workforce and the general public.
Sec. 7. Scope. (a) For purposes of this order:
(i) “Federal employees” and “Federal contractors” mean employees (including members of the Armed Forces and members of the National Guard in Federal service) and contractors (including such contractors’ employees) working for the executive branch;
(ii) “Federal buildings” means buildings, or office space within buildings, owned, rented, or leased by the executive branch of which a substantial portion of occupants are Federal employees or Federal contractors; and
(iii) “Federal lands” means lands under executive branch control.
(b) The Director of OPM and the Administrator of General Services shall seek to consult, in coordination with the heads of any other relevant agencies and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, with the Sergeants at Arms of the Senate and the House of Representatives and the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (or such other persons designated by the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate, the Speaker and Minority Leader of the House, or the Chief Justice of the United States, respectively), to promote mask-wearing, physical distancing, and adherence to other public health measures within the legislative and judicial branches, and shall provide requested technical assistance as needed to facilitate compliance with CDC guidelines.
Sec. 8. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) Independent agencies are strongly encouraged to comply with the requirements of this order.
(d) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.
THE WHITE HOUSE,
January 20, 2021.
South Africa entered lockdown level 3 on Monday, December 28. Among other rules changes associated with the heightened lockdown, it will be a crime for at least the next two weeks to be in public without wearing a mask.
As part of the new rules not wearing a mask is now a criminal offence and people who aren’t wearing masks in public can be arrested.
Until now the owners and managers of shops and public buildings, employers and operators of public transport have had a legal responsibility to ensure that everyone entering their premises or vehicle is wearing a mask.
“But given the grave danger our country now faces, the adjusted level 3 regulations will make every individual legally responsible for wearing a mask in public,” said Ramaphosa.
From now on it is compulsory for every person to wear a mask in a public space.
“A person who does not wear a cloth mask covering over the nose and mouth in a public place will be committing an offence,” he said.
A person who does not wear a mask could be arrested and prosecuted.
On conviction, they will be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both a fine and imprisonment.
“This is a drastic measure but is now necessary to ensure compliance with the most basic of preventative measures,” Ramaphosa said.