Are our former monarchical overlords in the U.K. “out-freedoming” America?

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“The government will no longer mandate the wearing of face masks anywhere…. We will trust the judgment of the British people.”

–Boris Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this week that the U.K. will begin lifting most COVID restrictions including mask mandates and COVID pass requirements even while parts of the U.S. continue to cling to useless mask mandates and are actually increasing the use of vaccine passports.

Say it isn’t so! Our overbearing parents are “sticking it to the man” better than their once-freedom-loving child? Our apple pies are burning! Our baseball games have turned to cricket! Our entire population of bald eagles have flown the coop seeking bluer skies across the pond!

Alright, enough with the hyperbole. In reality, America is still freer than the U.K. It is also possible that Johnson’s move was rooted in self-preservation after he faces severe criticism over his hypocritical attendance at drinking parties in 2020 when the citizens of the U.K. were locked down. The embattled prime minister also faces a possible vote of no confidence from his own party. The motivation for the move does not change the hard-to-accept truth that as the U.K. rolls back restrictions, the U.S. keeps ramping them up.

Take, for example, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s recent requirement that to enter virtually any business or public space everyone must present proof of vaccination and a photo ID. Only those with medical or religious exemptions are allowed to provide a negative COVID test as an alternative and that must have been taken within the last 24 hours. The irony that this is happening in the Capital of the Free World can’t even begin to be measured.

Then there’s the opposition from school boards, some parents, and Democrats to new Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order to lift mask mandates in K-12 schools,  an order that gives parents the power and discretion to decide whether or not their children need to wear a mask while learning. Read that again. Americans are suing a governor for trying to give them more freedom and more choice.

Now to be clear, I am not even entirely anti-mask. If wearing one makes you feel better or you want to wear one for those around you, that’s fine. Yet here’s the problem: The masks most people wear do nothing to stop the transmission of COVID. Only N-95 masks and to a lesser extent KN-95 masks are effective at limiting the spread of COVID, and even those masks must be fitted properly to your face and must be rotated frequently. How many people do you see wearing N-95 masks, much less wearing them effectively? The answer is almost no one.

Governments and school districts are mandating that Americans take part in a charade that at best makes us feel better and at worst actively harms us while turning us into submissive and scared followers.

If somehow everyone could obtain enough N-95 masks to satisfy a mandate, yes that might temporarily stall the spread of COVID while the government scrambles for another barely effective vaccine, or hopefully, eventually, a true one that actually prevents the disease. That isn’t our situation, as government officials continue to command us to wear masks that are about as effective as a fishbowl for a space helmet.

An N-95 mask mandate, however, raises the constitutional question of whether or not the government should be able to force people to wear masks outside of places such as hospitals and nursing homes. The answer is no, the government shouldn’t be able to require masks in all indoor, or even in some cases outdoor, areas. If you have COVID or you think you might, of course, you should stay home. If you are immunocompromised or in close indoor contact with someone who is, then you should wear a N95 mask, especially if they ask. Wearing a cloth mask, by contrast, is a nearly pointless endeavor.

Whatever Johnson’s real motivation, he claims to be following the data, saying, “From now on, the government is no longer asking people to work from home … And having looked at the data carefully, the Cabinet concluded that once regulations lapse, the government will no longer mandate the wearing of face masks anywhere.”

He added, “As COVID becomes endemic, we will need to replace legal requirements with guidance urging people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others. We will trust the judgment of the British people.”

It’s time America’s leaders, the ones supposedly representing a government by and for the people, did the same.