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Opinion
Faye Flam

Mask Mandates Didn’t Make Much of a Difference Anyway

The policies clearly didn’t stop omicron. Let’s focus on tactics that have worked better.

Unmasked.

Unmasked.

Photographer: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
Updated on

States across the U.S. have dropped their mask mandates this week, worrying Americans who think they’re still needed and cheering people who are ready to go “back to normal.” Both groups need to take a deep breath: Dropping mask mandates isn’t the same thing as ignoring Covid-19.

Masks have been the most visible part of America’s pandemic response, but one of the least consequential. The fact that 500,000 people worldwide died during the omicron surge means it’s time to change tactics, and focus on what went wrong that led to so many hospitalizations and deaths.