For most Americans, and much of the world, COVID is a thing of the past.
Even in mandate-obsessed Los Angeles, people are celebrating weddings, gathering for the holidays, attending large-scale sporting events and concerts, and doing their holiday shopping in busy shopping malls, while children are attending school, participating in music and sports — full-time, in-person, with zero or limited restrictions.
Despite this global return to normal, something common to every pandemic throughout human history, one person remains determined to remind citizens that their freedoms exist only as long as she wants them to.
Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (a person who has inexplicably been bestowed with limitless powers accompanied by no accountability whatsoever), announced that because the county may soon reach the arbitrarily-set Centers for Disease Control (CDC) “high” level of COVID transmission, she is likely to reimpose an indoor mask mandate on all people. This will apply to public transportation, schools, businesses and any public spaces.
All this even as China begins to depart from its failed, draconian zero COVID policies.
When news of this announcement began to spread on social media, I received messages such as “this is a joke, right?” or “China, here we come!” But this was no joke, and there is a very real possibility that Los Angeles will become one of the only places on earth with an indoor mask mandate.
How can this even be possible today?
This past July, Ferrer and her team decided at the last moment to pull a planned countywide indoor mask mandate after significant outrage by numerous key stakeholders.
First, a group of local physicians and epidemiologists spelled out clearly in a widely circulated op-ed why new mask mandates are unjustified due to a lack of differentiation between patients hospitalized with COVID and for COVID, a flawed and arbitrary CDC “Community Levels” metric, and mountains of new published clinical evidence from around the world which demonstrated that real-world use of masks had minimal impact on the spread of COVID, at best.
Second, independent municipalities throughout Los Angeles County like Beverly Hills, whose city governments prioritize healthy and happy residents over strict adherence to Ferrer’s zero COVID agenda, voted not to enforce a new mask mandate should it be imposed.
Finally, a group of very observant local parents and activists unearthed an internal video made by senior physicians at Los Angeles County USC Medical Center (the largest medical center in the county, which happens to care for the poorest and sickest population) that shockingly revealed no patient had been intubated for COVID in months, forcing the county hospital to admit that only 10% of COVID-positive patients had been admitted “due to illness caused by COVID.”
What happened when Ferrer finally caved under international media attention and citizen uproar and decided against imposing a mask mandate? Did hospitals fill up with dying residents? Did schools have to close due to outbreaks of COVID? Did we need to bring in refrigerator trucks to store countless corpses? No.
The COVID cases magically crashed, on their own, without the need for a mask mandate, as cases always do with coronaviruses. Had Ferrer masked us all, she would still be taking credit for this crash, but because she caved, it is obvious that a new mask mandate would not have helped.
We effectively had our first scientifically controlled situation, enabling us to do an apples-to-apples comparison between how COVID surges behave in Los Angeles County both with and without mask mandates. And we discovered that there is no difference. Masks wouldn’t have helped, and masks have likely never helped in a real-world situation.
What was valid last July is equally applicable today. Since then, nothing has meaningfully changed.
The Omicron variants we have in circulation are nowhere near as deadly as the Delta and original variants. COVID-related deaths are relatively low and occur in elderly and/or those with numerous medical comorbidities. Schools remain fully open, mask-free, without major COVID outbreaks or any student deaths. Vaccines are available for those who want them, we have excellent medications on the market, and most importantly, we have widespread and robust natural immunity that can exceed what can be achieved with a vaccine, with many having been infected numerous times, even the vaccinated.
Moreover, we now have an overwhelming body of evidence regarding the social, academic, and psychological harms of masking children, with no meaningful clinical benefit.
It is now obvious to anyone with a brain that this is not about COVID, and it was clearly never about COVID. Rather, this is about Los Angeles County weaponizing its Department of Public Health, led by Ferrer, to control the people — including our most vulnerable humans, our children. How else could anyone explain this fanatical reliance on meaningless CDC Community Levels and a belief that the known harms of mask mandates (particularly for children) are somehow outweighed by the nonexistent benefits they offer?
As an Iranian-born American who escaped to the U.S. during the Islamic Revolution of 1979, I watch in awe as women in Iran risk their lives to protest a mandated covering over their hair. But here, today, we once again risk being forced to cover not our hair but our mouths, with the threat of exclusion, shaming, and a denial of work and education. This is not the America my parents and I fled to for freedom and comfort.
Now that newly-elected members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have been sworn into office, it is time for the board to remove Ferrer and replace her with a medical doctor who has a working knowledge of medicine, public health, and ethics.
It is time for the people of Los Angeles to examine the facts, demand transparency, insist that this threat of a renewed mask mandate be ended, and refuse to comply with any new mandates that are clearly against both common sense and public health.
Houman David Hemmati, M.D., Ph.D. is a board-certified ophthalmologist and biomedical research scientist in Santa Monica, California. Dr. Hemmati earned a BS in Biological Sciences from Stanford University, an MD from UCLA School of Medicine, and a PhD from Caltech, and completed an internship in Internal Medicine at Stanford Hospital, an ophthalmology residency at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital, a postdoctoral research fellowship in chemical engineering at MIT, and a clinical fellowship at Harvard Medical School. He has co-founded and helps run two pharmaceutical companies developing treatments for eye diseases like macular degeneration, and has published extensively in the areas of stem cell research and blinding eye diseases. You can follow him on Twitter: @houmanhemmati
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.