Reason Roundup

Experts Agree That Outdoor Post-Vaccination Masking Is Useless

Plus: U.S. approves sanctions on Myanmar's state-run businesses, Howard University dissolves its classics department, and more...


"Is It Time to End Outdoor Masking?" That was the question posed by Spencer Bokat-Lindell, a staff editor at The New York Times, in a recent opinion piece. Bokat-Lindell noted that journalists at Reasonas well as Slate, The New Republic, and The Atlantichad expressed skepticism of government mandates requiring mask while outdoors, and decided to ask the experts to see what they thought.

"Is Mr. Soave right?" asked Bokat-Lindell. "Here's what public health experts and journalists are saying."

As it turns out, they largely agree that outdoor masking is useless.

Take it away, experts:

"Transmissions do not take place between solitary individuals going for a walk, transiently passing each other on the street, a hiking trail or a jogging track," Dr. Paul E. Sax, a professor at Harvard Medical School, wrote in NEJM Journal Watch. "That biker who whizzes by without a mask poses no danger to us, at least from a respiratory virus perspective."…

Experts have been preaching the importance of distinguishing between indoor and outdoor transmission risks since the early months of the pandemic. But now that the vaccination drive is underway, the expectation of universal outdoor masking "almost becomes ridiculous," Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease doctor at the University of California, San Francisco, told Slate. Dr. Gandhi isn't alone: Several epidemiologists have called for an end to outdoor mask mandates, which some 24 states still have in place.

Earlier this week, The Washington Post reached the same conclusion:

Even if one is wary about the risks right now, those risks will abate considerably over the next month. More than half of all eligible Americans have received at least one coronavirus vaccination shot, which means that by the end of May more than half of all Americans will be fully vaccinated. A growing body of evidence suggests that fully vaccinated Americans are highly unlikely vectors for transmitting the disease. This means the need for mask-wearing should be reduced even further….

Just let time work its magic. As more and more vaccinated people feel comfortable going maskless outside, the social norm of putting on a mask will subside slowly, then suddenly.

The evidence is clear: COVID-19 is a disease that spreads when humans breathe, talk, laugh, and sing in each other's faces during close contact—particularly indoors, in poorly ventilated spaces. The outdoors, on the other hand, are associated with very little transmission. Moreover, the vaccinated are essentially immune from severe disease and death, and their odds of contracting the virus at all are very low. Their odds of spreading the disease are even lower. Vaccinated people who have incidental contact with other people outside are not going to spread the virus, and requiring people to mask up during such circumstances is pointless.

That's not a matter of opinion: It's the expert consensus. If you don't want to hear it, then you aren't listening to the science. Government policy makers take heed; it is long past time to end COVID-19 restrictions—especially the ones that aren't even serving any actual public health purpose.


Howard University, a historically black college in Washington, D.C., has decided to eliminate its classics department, prompting outrage:

The decision has left students and professors scrambling to save the department, saying Howard is the only historically Black university with a classics department. A spokeswoman for the university did not immediately confirm that.

The decision has frustrated those within the department, who argue that in a field dominated by White scholars, it is important to keep the stand-alone classics division at the school.

Classical history is also Black history, said Anika Prather, an adjunct professor in Howard's classics department.

"In most college classics departments, they will read these texts and will skip right over the fact that they're from Ethiopia. The world of the ancient times was a really integrated, diverse society," Prather said. "If we lose it, we lose a piece of all of us."


The U.S. is imposing sanctions on Myanmar, where the military recently placed the democratically elected president under house arrest and launched a coup. The targets of the sanctions are two state-run businesses that fund the military, according to The New York Times:

The Treasury Department identified Myanmar Timber Enterprise and Myanmar Pearl Enterprise, representing the country's thriving timber and pearl industries, as sources of funding for the military and its leadership. The sanctions bar the companies from doing business in the United States or with American companies, and their assets were frozen under Wednesday's order.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken accused the country's military of killing more than 650 people — including many children — and detaining more than 3,200 others since February. He suggested the Biden administration would consider further action in the future.


• The FBI reportedly classified the 2017 baseball shooting—in which a deranged gunman wounded Rep. Steve Scalise (R–La.)—as a "suicide by cop" incident, which is ridiculous.

The Washington Examiner: "US Postal Service running secret program that tracks people's social media and flags government agencies: Report."

• Why hasn't New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned yet?

• Derek Chauvin is being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours each day.

• President Joe Biden plans to formally recognize the Armenian genocide.

• There are two ways to read the same COVID-19 outbreak story: the way a scientist would, and the way a member of the media would: