This Tennessee Data for Masked vs. Unmasked Counties Would Be on Every Front Page, if the Results Were Different

Scott Morefield

As you may have heard, we’ve sort of got a “casedemic” problem here in Tennessee. That means lots and lots (and lots) of people are testing positive for COVID-19. That’s about all we know for sure, of course. Nevertheless, hand-wringing from media, politicians, and local ‘health authorities’ is seemingly neverending, as are local reporters in my neck of the woods being filmed standing in front of that FEMA body truck they don’t bother to tell us has been sitting in front of the regional hospital, unused, SINCE MARCH. Hospitals aren’t overwhelmed by any measure, and even the death toll isn’t really all that impressive either considering that Tennessee is actually below the national average in deaths per million and most people who are dying are either already super old or super sick.

Indeed, while COVID does tragically hit some people hard, most ‘cases’ are quite mild and often non-symptomatic, driven by panic at every sniffle or people being forced to test for work and other reasons. And there is increasingly solid evidence that not everyone counted as a ‘COVID death’ is really a death caused by COVID, but rather someone who had a positive PCR test at some point in 2020 before dying. When you have a highly contagious respiratory virus going around, particularly one that is seasonal and seems to be boxing out the flu, an increasing percentage of those who die will likely have it. These ‘scary’ numbers lie at the root of the ongoing panic and give continued justification for our overlords to continue to exercise control over society.

Here in Tennessee, one of the few states without a statewide mask-mandate, much pressure has been placed upon Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee to “do something.” Since lockdowns are thankfully for the most part out of the question here, the pressure has centered on establishing that mandate the mask-Karens have been longing for. Even former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a medical doctor, has gotten in on the action, begging Lee to pull the trigger in a Facebook post earlier this month that blamed rising case numbers not on the winter months when such viruses always tend to spread, but on supposedly unmasked rural counties.

But is Frist correct? Fortunately, like Florida, Tennessee is a great place to compare mask-mandated places with ones that aren’t and see if such governmental overreach really does contribute to slowing the spread of COVID-19. If they help, surely some evidence of that would be in the data, right? Since I’m a resident of the eastern part of the state, I decided to run the numbers myself. When I first started getting the data together, I didn’t know entirely what to expect. If there was a sharp difference showing masked counties doing better than unmasked ones, it would be a truth I would have to report, even if it went against my preconceived (in this case anti-mask) notions.

Then again, I figured if that were the case every news outlet in the country would be reporting it. After all, they make a national news story out of every cherry-picked “study,” like the one that came out of Kansas a few weeks ago, that purports to show masks working. The Tennessean even lamely tried to use positivity rates, which vary widely in urban vs rural settings often because rural areas test significantly less, to shame Lee into giving in. But if they had raw numbers showing masked areas doing significantly better, wouldn’t they be shouting those from the rooftops? Of course they would, which led me to believe the numbers I generated would be, shall we say, inconvenient for the chosen narrative on masks.

And boy was I correct. While we’re not allowed to insert tweets or images in op-eds, you can view my data here. Since COVID appears to be seasonal and often hits different parts of the nation at different times and Tennessee is a WIDE state, I stuck with only the east Tennessee area for this particular analysis. For simplicity, I also left out counties that chickened out and issued mask mandates in the middle of the time period. Then I ran the numbers for 17 contiguous counties for the period from October 1 to December 22. Nine did not have a mask-mandate in place, while eight did.

Over the allotted period, counties with mask mandates saw 4.7% of their population infected while those without them saw a 4.6% infection rate. Interestingly, Hawkins County, which let its mandate expire at the end of September, had 4.3% of its population infected, while Carter County had 5.1% infected with a mandate in place. Both have nearly identical populations.

Granted, there are other factors at play. There always are. Almost everyone got a spike in November, masked or not. That’s because this virus is seasonal, and there was no stopping it once it came. Some areas were hit harder in the spring and over the summer. Often urban areas like Knox County will actually tend to fight off bugs like this a little better because of other coronavirus antibodies developed through greater population density, and there’s sadly little stopping the virus, when it comes, from ripping through ‘virgin’ areas that have barely experienced it, rural or not. Although mask-wearing will generally be less in the non-mandated areas, some people shun wearing masks where they’re mandated and some people wear masks where they aren’t required to. But even with these other factors, if mask mandates worked as our overlords insist they do, does not logic demand that the raw numbers would show it at least a little? If this data were in the pro-maskers’ favor, wouldn’t it have already been on the front page of The New York Times?

When you combine this Tennessee data with Rational Ground’s data from Florida and masked vs unmasked states nationwide that I wrote about in last week’s column, the picture is increasingly clear. It’s time to face the fact that mask mandates DO NOT WORK to stop or even slow the spread of COVID-19.