Of all the dismaying things to come out of the coronavirus controversy, the debate about wearing masks may be the most specious.

Those who oppose masks argue they “don’t work.” They point to defenses that have long been debunked, attributed to political agendas or are progeny of internet-driven disinformation campaigns. The vast body of medical evidence is incontrovertible: Masks, while no cure, dramatically reduce the spread of not only the coronavirus but other germ-causing illnesses as well. They are worn primarily to protect others from what comes out of your nose and mouth.

This “debate” belongs on the dark fringes of the internet, not in Southern Pines town government, yet that’s where Town Council member Mitch Lancaster has taken us.

No sooner had the council decided last month to resume in-person meetings — in accordance with health protocols — than Lancaster announced he would not be wearing a mask to meetings.

“I am happy to stay 6 feet from everybody, but I will not wear a mask,” the otherwise normally amiable Lancaster said. Then, later in an interview with The Pilot, he said, “We try to keep greater politics or world events out of the council room as much as we can, but this is a unique situation. I really believe that masks do not work.”

Debunking the Declaration

You might recall the last time The Pilot wrote about Lancaster, back in early February. He was at church on Super Bowl Sunday when he began experiencing symptoms that eventually turned out to be a stroke. Lancaster was the beneficiary at Moore Regional Hospital of quick work by a medical team that diagnosed his condition and treated him rapidly to the point where no lasting damage occurred.

Lancaster spent two days in an intensive care unit bed, the very same beds that have been regularly used these past eight months by coronavirus patients.

In support of his opposition to masks, Lancaster cites the “Great Barrington Declaration.” That document calls for protection of vulnerable populations while removing restrictions so healthy people can return to a normal day-to-day existence. It opposes lockdowns and promotes “herd immunity,” the concept of increasing infection broadly to the point of fostering immunity to the virus.

It is said to be signed by “thousands” of medical professionals over the internet, but there is no vetting process to prove a signature as authentic. Multiple news stories have now debunked many of the signatories’ veracity. The document’s development was also fostered by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian-leaning think tank funded, in part, by the conservative billionaire Charles Koch.

Masks Matter

Lancaster’s vaunted research is dubious at best, deceitful at worst. Meanwhile, infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths connected to the coronavirus are spiking across the nation. The sheer numbers are beginning to overwhelm hospitals and doctors across the country. There but for the grace of God go we, and we’re not out of the woods.

If nothing else, Lancaster’s position not to wear a mask to protect others is embarrassing and selfish. And it is an affront to the medical professionals who saved his life just a few months ago and who spend their days in masks and have to fight the virus every day. What if Lancaster had had his stroke a few months later and couldn’t get an ICU bed because they were all full of coronavirus patients? Would his recovery have been as prompt — and successful?

This is not the kind of behavior we expect from a public servant who should, first and foremost, be willing to protect and serve the public. And that’s not just the public he agrees with politically. It’s everyone.

No, masks won’t keep you healthy, as evidenced by the news that fellow Councilman Paul Murphy and his wife fell ill recently with COVID-19. But mask wearing can limit the spread of germs. Fewer sick people means less stress on the medical providers and more opportunity to resume relatively “normal” lives.

Mitch, don’t be a knucklehead. For the sake of everyone — the sick, the elderly, those trying to stay healthy, the medical professionals who saved your life — wear a mask and move on with life.

We’re all sick of wearing masks, but not as sick if we don’t wear them at all.

(20) comments

Jim Tomashoff

Kent writes: "Because the right to life of their innocent unborn child takes precedence. Look it up in the Bible." Last I checked we don't live in a Theocracy. But if Kent really wants to live in one I'll happily chip-in to buy him a one-way ticket to Iran. Does anyone find it hypocritical for a self-described Libertarian, and an extreme Libertarian at that, to argue that the State should use its power to make and enforce laws, with long prison terms for violators, to ban a woman for having an abortion before the fetus is viable outside of her uterus? Don't Libertarians demand that government stay out of their private lives?

Mark Hayes

Smoking tobacco products, alcohol addiction, drug addiction, obesity, lack of concern for one's health, etc., etc. . All " personal choices " all seem to be related to eventual health issues, many requiring hospitalization, and often the cause of early death. Now I personally do not care, I just do not feel it to be my responsibility to fund those who choose to partake in challenging fate, let them, just as long as they are paying for their own choices. Unfortunately the burden falls on those who pay taxes, and because of that, I would consider it a moral obligation to take measures to prevent any form of " self inflicted " ailments. As I see it, not using preventative measures to combat the known chances and risk for the spread of the virus is foolish. Although looked upon by some as a violation of their rights, it also may be looked upon as an infringement on the rights of others that do practice preventative measures. This virus has caused a substantial impact on our economy, overwhelmed our medical providers, countless hardships, and yet there are those who continue with this ludicrous reference of our rights being violated. No, the government should not " demand " wearing a mask when needed, and we should not need the government forced to make those demands, what part of this issue do some not understand, it's common sense to prevent, not promote the spread.

Jim Tomashoff

Well said Mark regarding your comments related to masks. I think it is reasonably clear that many opposed to wear masks simply to not understand, based on their comments, that masks are useful/critical in keep them from infecting others when the mask wearer is asymptomatic. Kent and others talk about their willingness to risk contracting covid and their resentment at government for telling them to wear them or requiring them to wear one under certain circumstances. When one's information about current events comes exclusively from far-right/libertarian sources, compounded with belief in conspiracy theories you get the Kent's of this country. Will these folks change? No. Will Biden be able to change the political climate? No. Will there be any "healing" among the body politic? No. Will most Trump supporters look to and support traditional Republican values and arguments over the next four years? No. Will the hate of political opponents (Democrats) abate at all and will white grievances subside? No. Will the alt-right continue to be a source of heavily-armed white nationalists, and will these folks continue to be the primary source of political violence as the FBI has found and warned us about? Sadly, yes.

Mark Hayes

Jim, I don't believe there will be any aftershocks. It's over, Biden won. I'll be waiting for that $ 1,500. he is going to increase my Social Security, and I'm sure that those hourly workers will be looking forward to that $15,000.00 increase in their yearly pay. Joe put a lot out there when campaigning, let's see how much he produces from those promises.

Stephen Woodward

"Other germ-causing illnesses"? I think we know why the Left loves these masks. They adopted them without hesitation because it handed them the first step toward achieving the goal of long term tyranny. What's next? Every year, from October through April, will we enter mask season? For safety, don't you know. To show how much you care. Oh, and while we're at it, close the schools. Out of an abundance of caution. What a crock. Let us applaud Mitch Lancaster for exhibiting an attribute lacking among the other council members. Intelligence.


Sally Larson

"Fewer sick people means less stress on the medical providers and more opportunity to resume relatively “normal” lives."

Unfortunately, the people who don't want to wear masks don't have the good character to care about others. They appear to be self-centered and spoiled because all they do is stomp their feet yelling "You can't make me"!

No Sally, it’s called an inalienable right.

ken leary

How come these "inalienable rights" don't apply to a women's agency over her own body?

Because the right to life of their innocent unborn child takes precedence. Look it up in the Bible.

ken leary

The bible was written by men relying on hearsay Kent. We are not a theocracy and we do not live by the teachings of religious zealots. Well, maybe you do. I disagree with you that women are subservient to men and that they should accept their role as livestock; breeders as you would have it. Where, by the way, does the bible mention that men will have dominion over women? Does the bible even mention abortion?

Stephen Woodward

Sally, Where are these sick people? You know what is really “sick”? Denying children classroom education because teachers are cowards who will not go back to work. Killing businesses. Turning neighbors against neighbors. Here’s my suggestion. Remain in your home. The rest of us will get on with living.

ken leary

Don't really care about your business; not even a little bit. The sick people Stephen, are in hospitals, cemeteries, and on city streets. I can't even get my head around the absolute ignorance you demonstrate by demanding teachers risk their life so your "business" can make a buck.

Well put Stephen. The left will always tell us what they fear most when they resort to name-calling.

For every scientific study claiming masks work, I can show you two scientific studies that show they don’t. Common sense and critical thinking though are the best proof: If masks worked, there would be no Covid cases in nursing homes. If masks worked, European countries would not be locking down again. If not wearing masks led to illness, why are so many leading Democrats spotted without them, including Roy “Shutdown” Cooper. If masks worked, why then are 75% of reported cases with people who supposedly wore masks all the time but still tested positive? They don’t work. 90% of Covid cases are false positives. 94% reported deaths are not really caused by Covid.

Tommy McDonell

I don’t Care if you show me studies where they work or don’t work. If ONE DEATH could be avoided by masks to me This is worth it. EVEN KENT if it is your life.

When did we become a society who Always Only Cared About ourself. It saddens me but it also makes me MAD that Moore County or two Pilot readers don’t care about their kids, parents, me etc.

Why make it harder on hospitals and staff and the rest of us.

Those of you who don’t want to wear the mask to help others could stay home. I do stay home a lot Kent. But I have to see doctors. I sometimes must go out.

So let’s care for each other.

Chris Smithson

Well said

Jim Tomashoff

Tommy wrote: "When did we become a society who Always Only Cared About ourself." When the Reagan Administration debased government at all levels. When he said that the government, at all levels was the enemy of "the people." When we were ushered into the "me genereation," which gave rise to people like Kent who focus solely on their rights, but accept no responsibility whatsoever for the consequences of their selfishness on other people's rights.

Selfishness? Refuting false claims made intentionally by your ilk to scare the daylights out of people to advance your totalitarian causes? Look in the mirror to find selfishness.

Masks do not work. Where I shop few wear them and they are happy and healthy.

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