It’s Time to Drop the Masks, Madison

I am the furthest thing from a COVID denier, but continued mask wearing in Madison is just another form of liberal virtue signaling.

I split my time between our place in the North Woods and our condo on the Near West Side. For virtually all of the pandemic I was frustrated with my Upper Peninsula neighbors. Too many of them were either in denial or openly hostile — for bizarre and incoherent political reasons — to simple public health measures.

I hate confrontation, but at the depths of the pandemic I had had enough. One day I was checking out at my favorite hardware store up there and the clerk was, as was his routine, not wearing a mask — never mind a sign on the door saying that masks were required. I pointed this out to him and he pointed to the mask around his neck. “Seriously, man?” I said. “That’s not doing either of us any good.”

He slipped the mask over his nose and mouth and, no doubt, muttered something unpleasant underneath.

But several months later here we are, happily, in Dane County with a 70% vaccination rate. All the local precautions have been lifted and the CDC says that it is perfectly safe not to wear a mask as long as you’ve been vaccinated. And yet most Madison businesses I go to still require them, often in absolutely senseless ways. So, for example, a lot of restaurants require them as you’re walking to and from your table. Meanwhile, you’re surrounded by people eating and chatting away, maskless. It makes no sense.

To be fair, I don’t blame the businesses. The CDC did a crummy job of preparing people for the new guidance and, for most of the pandemic, there’s been too little in the way of national or state requirements for dealing with this at all. (It’s fair to blame Trump and the state Republicans for this.) When what rules there were went away, businesses were left in the lurch, so many just acceded to local custom. In the north that meant the masks came off and the plexiglass came down right away. But here, both remain. It has little to do with science and everything to do with culture.

Of course, there’s no harm in wearing a mask. It’s just unnecessary and annoying. And, I can’t help but feel that most Madison businesses are doing it because their customers demand it. As I’ve written before, Madison is a community of people who, when they were kids, always had their hand up in class and always with the right answer, kids who were three days ahead on their homework, kids who excelled at being crossing guards.

Wearing a mask now has gone from an important public health strategy and a way of just being considerate of others, to just another form of liberal virtue signaling. While I’m here in Rome I’ll do as the Romans do. But it’s really time to dump the masks, people.

I’m looking forward to heading north tomorrow.

Welcome to the 126th day of consecutive posts here at YSDA.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

6 thoughts on “It’s Time to Drop the Masks, Madison

  1. Amen.

    In case there’s an opening for a genuine discussion of the science of the jab, I link to a section of an interview with Dr. Robert Malone, one of the inventors of mRNA technologies. He’s as mainstream as you can get:

    it’s only 15 minutes long. Dr. Malone, and interviewers, go into careful detail on the data that exists, and was known by Pfizer and policymakers, about the problems with the way this jab works, especially, the way it bio-accumulates in the ovaries and bone marrow and why pregnant women and children should not receive the vaccine. If your interest is tweaked, the rest of the very long interview covers the bio-ethics of the jab; essentially all previous guidelines are being ignored, the suppression of information, and why coercion of the type you recommended in a previous article is unethical and immoral.


    1. Well… I can’t second your amen, Tom. I got the vaccine as soon as I could. I think everybody should get it. It’s a question of our responsibility to everybody else. The benefits so far outweigh the risks, that it’s not even close.


      1. Thank you. So, if I can, what do you mean by ‘everybody’ and ‘should’? When you say the benefits outweigh the risks, do you know the risks?

        A small example – children have a statistically zero chance of dying from covid. ‘Should’ they? In fact, and I do mean the data that currently exists and is agreed upon by all responsible players – if you’re under 40 your chance of dying is .01%. ‘Should’ those under 40?


      2. Maybe if I try this from another direction we can stay engaged Dave. As a former governmental official, and potentially one in the future, here is my question for you: Should the government mandate the jab for everyone? ie from neo-nates to geriatric patients? You have previously espoused a position close to this one for the UW system. Should that position be expanded to cover everybody?


  2. Let me play devil’s advocate.

    This pandemic thing isn’t over, and vaccines are not 100%. I know of at least two fully vaccinated people who got Covid – one died. With variants still out there, and Covididiots among us, there are places where wearing a mask makes sense. Personally, I suspect it is likely we will find that restrictions and guidances have been lifted too soon, all is the thrall of the almighty dollar. A vaccination rate of 70% is not enough.

    More importantly, it seems to me, my friend, that calling out mask wearing as a cultural value, another “liberal virtue signal” is little different than other behaviors you have called out correctly: lumping all white folks together as racists, or all men as carrying some bad gene. All folks, whether they are white, male or live in Madison, should be judged on their own character and decisions, not on race or gender….or where they live. I am quite sure you agree: Wearing a mask is a personal choice that we all ought to respect. Some places I wear one, other not. That’s the choice everybody makes.


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