To mask or not to mask?


In Gotham, the Times plays Hamlet: In print editions, the New York Times has a hard-hitting report at the top of today's front page.

Headline included, the report starts off like this:

For Holdouts in Masks, Life Turns Lonelier

Bitsy Cherry had been bracing for the question ever since most of the members of a board game group that had started meeting online during the pandemic began attending in-person meetings a few months ago.

Like many of the dwindling group of Americans still taking precautions like masking indoors and limiting face-to-face interactions, Mx. Cherry, who uses gender-neutral courtesy titles and pronouns, had been fielding nudges to return to pre-Covid routines from all corners...

The report goes on to detail the stresses being placed on "the dwindling group of Americans" who are still wearing masks—on people like Bitsy Cherry.

That report appears on the paper's front page—but hold on! Inside the paper's (weekly) Science Times section, a separate report says this:

It’s Time to Wear a Mask Again, Health Experts Say

Masks are back, and, this time, they’re not just for Covid-19. A “tripledemic” of the coronavirus, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, known as R.S.V., sweeping through the United States has prompted several cities and counties, including New York City and Los Angeles County, to encourage people to wear a mask in indoor public spaces once again.

Nationwide, Covid-19 case rates have spiked by 58 percent since the end of November...

On page A1, Cherry is under societal stress. But by the time we reach D6, it's Hang on, Bitsy, hang on!

Meanwhile, also this: As we sit here typing at 1:15 P.M., the online Washington Post offers this as the featured news report in its NATIONAL section:

100-year-old woman makes custom jackets by hand and gives them away

At present, that's the featured report in the paper's NATIONAL section. On the online Post's endless front page, it appears below this featured report from the LIFESTYLE section:

Do the dishes better and faster with these easy tweaks

People, we're just sayin'.


  1. "On page A1, Cherry is under societal stress. But by the time we reach D6, it's Hang on, Bitsy, hang on!"

    The solution to this conundrum is obvious. Bitsy isn't playing board games with health experts. Is Somerby truly such a moron?

    1) A newspaper is not an official governent publication aimed at disseminating public health information.

    2) Being a newspaper and not a government outlet, it reports on what experts say we should do, but it also reports on what some people are actually doing, such as the board game playing community.

    3) Most people, not being as big an idiot as Somerby, can keep these distinct groups separate in their minds, without being confused about the purpose of a newspaper or who is saying what about masks.

  2. Why might such timeless stories, about jackets and dishwashing, appear over Christmas? Maybe the reporters wanted to go home to be with their families on the holiday. Having some dateline-independent stories in the can ahead of time provides new content to readers without forcing reporting staff and others to be chained to their desks while everyone else is celebrating.

    If Somerby had the empathy of an inchworm, that might be obvious to him, instead of selfishly complaining because the stories aren't topical enough to suit his interests. What an asshole! I'll bet he complains when second-stringers enter the ice in a hockey game, to give the first string some rest. My favorite time is when the network broadcast news anchors take a break and give the youngsters a chance on camera.

  3. “As we sit here typing at 1:15 P.M., the online Washington Post offers this as the featured news report in its NATIONAL section:

    100-year-old woman makes custom jackets by hand and gives them away”

    At this moment, these are the top 3 stories in the national section that show up when I go to the website:

    ‘Driving force’ in plot to kidnap Mich. governor sentenced to 16 years

    Democrats call for George Santos to resign seat over resume ‘lies’

    At least 28 dead in Buffalo’s worst blizzard in 50 years

    Nothing about a 100 year old woman giving away custom-made items.

    Which is actually pretty cool. I’d rather read that than some glowing portrait of the Bocelli family, as Bocelli continues to enrich himself singing ‘O Holy Night.’

    What would be ironic would be if the Post’s behind the scenes info gathering algorithms present Somerby with the stories he mocks because those are the ones he seeks out and clicks on in order to mock.

    1. Here are mine:

      Democrats call for George Santos to resign seat over résumé ‘lies’

      ‘Driving force’ in plot to kidnap Mich. governor sentenced to 16 years

      Tracking Biden’s nominees to fill the top roles in his administration

      These were under the "National" subhead. Other topics were under other subheads, such as "Health" or "The Fix". I suspect that Somerby isn't paying attention to those smallish subheads when he tells us a story about custom jackets was mixed in with one about the blizzard or Santos.

      When Somerby complains about the "endless" front page, it sounds like he is blaming the Washington Post for a feature that is actually a property of computers and how their screens work. Somerby's own webpage is little different, in terms of having to scroll and encountering different topics as you go down the page.

    2. WaPo is showing unusually courtesy to a Republican by putting the word "lies" in quotes. George Santos was really, really lying.

    3. Very true. It makes no sense to go to an online site just to criticize the topic contents and priority.

      With anonymices we can add the penchant to criticize the readers who DO appreciate the site and the content.

      You tell him, anonymices!

    4. I hope David and Cecelia are vaxed and boosted.

    5. “ George Santos was really, really lying.” Hence, the Republicans are rushing to seat him and welcome him with open arms. smdh

    6. Cecilia, we disagree on much, politically speaking. But I sincerely value your willingness to keep reacting in a sensible way to the grotesque antics of the anonymous posters on this site, as, for example, here:

      “Very true. It makes no sense to go to an online site just to criticize the topic contents and priority.

      With anonymices we can add the penchant to criticize the readers who DO appreciate the site and the content.

      You tell him, anonymices!”

      Weirdly, and I speak only for myself here, on the unusual occasions when I accidentally read an anonymous posting here, I find that they (the anonymous legion) sometimes do have something of value to note. But their self-indulgent insistence on doing so in a way that makes it stupidly tricky to follow who said what negates any good they might otherwise do here.

      So thank you again, Cecilia, for fighting such a thankless battle against such an endlessly idiotic host of foes. My only objection to what you do is that “anonymices” is far too kind to them and too hard on mice.

    7. Yes, but why is the only tool Cecelia has in her toolbox an ad hominem attack? Such as calling human beings mice simply because she dislike their nym (anonymous)?

      And here you come to call her "foes" words like idiotic, or self-indulgent (because they don't want to adopt a nym which makes personal attacks easier). If Cecelia were capable of attacking an argument instead of a person, this wouldn't be an issue. The arguments here are distinct and easy to tell apart, for anyone with half a brain.

  4. Somerby thinks it's humorous to insert a reference to Hang On Sloopy with "But by the time we reach D6, it's Hang on, Bitsy, hang on!" Mocking someone who wants to stay healthy but is encountering social resistance is about Somerby's speed these days. He thinks it is no disadvantage to have to wear a mask in highly politicized times when people can be and are singled out for a health care decision that the right wing has made political (for no good reason).

    Tournament (duplicate) bridge is in the same situation. Four people sit around a card table and breathe the same air, handle the same cards and bidding boxes for 20-30 minutes, long enough to catch covid if it is present. The American Contract Bridge League started with mandatory masks at its tournaments nationwide, but has relaxed those standards recently, making masks optional. As a result, very few people wore them in Phoenix, the latest 10-day national championships.

    Here is my experience with and without masks. With a mask, I didn't catch covid despite playing throughout 2021. In 2022, when masks became optional, I stopped wearing a mask and caught covid after the Denver Regional tournament. After recovering, I played at the Las Vegas Regional and caught a cold (negative covid tests). At that point I was tired of being sick, so I put my mask back on conscientously and did not catch covid at the 10-day Phoneix nationals or the Rancho Mirage (Palm Springs) Regional. In Palm Springs, one partner told me she had been notified that a partner earlier in the week was positive for covid. Yet she didn't wear a mask herself. I asked her why not and she said "I don't want to." Another partner had a nose-dripping, sneezing, coughing cold and was self-medicating with Dayquil. She didn't wear a mask either. I managed not to catch what either partner was carrying.

    So, I believe masks work. They may not be perfect, but the difference between wearing one and not wearing one has been pretty obvious in my own experience. That's why I find Somerby's mockery of someone who wants to spend time was other people but doesn't want to get sick (perhaps again, as in my case), is incredibly obtuse. Masks have protected workers on the job, from retail clerks to physicians and nurses, throughout the pandemic. Mocking those who want to stay healthy is like mocking the disabled or making fun of people who want to cross at the corner instead of mid-block or people who wear their seatbelts, or others who want to exercise a modicum of common sense.

    What is wrong with Somerby? Or is he just perversely resistant to Bitsy's problems because he doesn't like it that she states her pronouns? An asshole's an asshole, 100%.

    1. anon 2:09 (f/k/a Corby) - calling TDh an 'asshole" is real classy. But glad to hear about your mask experiences, great.

    2. Yes, and you’re an asshole too. If someone wanted to be Corby they could use that as a nym, obviously.

  5. Wearing a mask feels anti-social because you cannot see people's facial expressions, their smiles or frowns, which are very important to social interaction. Also, the casual touching and handshakes feel uncomfortable in a situation where contagion is possible but refusing to touch seems hostile. I think it is a service for a newspaper to explain that to people who may be feeling pressured but not want to remove the mask too soon.

    Also, Somerby may not understand that the virus situation is different in different parts of the country. In New York City, there is more covid and more concerns about new variants than in Wyoming. The level of covid in Baltimore is currently medium (1 in 310). If Somerby feels safe in his location, that doesn't mean others do, or that they should. It depends on covid levels in their area. The rate in NYC is "very high" (1 in 191).

  6. Bob Somerby a good, decent person. Or he was, long ago.

  7. Does anybody really take Bob at his word on this stuff
    anymore? Are we to actually believe Bob never noticed that
    News Media of all stripes covers very important, sometimes
    life or death topics, while at the same time covering more
    entertainment oriented, less critical matters?
    Has not made it an personal policy that his hatred of
    certain journalists is reason enough to ignore the story
    of a damn near successful attempt of a mad fool to
    overturn our Government? (Yes, for a time he did trry
    to justify the effort in every fashion he could).
    Has Bob written anything about the Ukraine war
    and it's coverage? Or the right wing pundits who have
    sided with Russia?

    1. anon 4:43, it may not have occurred to you that you can look for info about the Ukraine or right-wing pundits who side with russia elsewhere than on TDH's site. You seem utterly disgusted with the guy, but you are, oddly, drawn here anyway. That notwithstanding, I for one would sign a petition that TDH be forced to resign so you can run the blog the way it should be run.

    2. It is stupid to suggest that people cannot comment just because they came here voluntarily.

    3. Well, thanks, but your opening is weak. Obviously, Bob is not the only one who can write about the war and it's coverage, but HE IS the one bitching about
      the media covering trivial (to him, anyway) matters
      as a dodge for looking at the media in a serious way
      A lot of the political media world is bonkers.
      Bob is a guy more or less pleading for common
      sense and civility, while he abandoned these things
      himself long ago. So he is a good guy to balance
      your own thoughts and feelings off as a kind of
      sanity helper.

    4. anon 11:48, he is what he is. His bitching about the Post covering click bait stuff has certainly run it's course - once was enough. I don't think he gets into things like the war in Ukraine and a lot of other topics, not his area. relatively speaking, I think he is civil, but he gets exasperated by the frequent overwhelming dumbness of his and our side of the political divide.

    5. "...overwhelming dumbness of his and our side of the political divide."

      Both sides.

  8. It's such a frivolous topic. Why would the Times print it?

    1. Would it have been less trivial if it had been about an anti-masker who feels enslaved and tyrannized by being asked to wear a mask? That was (and is) a real thing, and resulted in mask mandates being outlawed. Individual actions can have consequences.

    2. And if something called Mx Bitsy Cherry is involved, we’ll put the pro-masking take on the front page and then relegate “health experts” to D6.

      The trivialization is merely a by-product of journalistic jooshing.

    3. People are referred to as "someone" not "something". Your bigotry over someone's name is noted.

    4. People are either male or female. Bitsy Cherry has declared themself to be something else.

    5. The word applies to both genders.

  9. Do normal cloth masks actually help in reducing the spread of a virus?

    1. Now that it’s almost 2023, why don’t you type that into Google and find out?