Love in the Time of COVID-19

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A scientific journal published by Elsevier has reportedly posted a stunning 101 expressions of concern on studies connected to Didier Raoult, a disgraced French microbiologist who gained international prominence amid the pandemic by promoting, with little evidence, that the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine could treat COVID-19—a claim that has now been firmly debunked.

Essentially, critics claim Raoult and the institute that he led until 2021, the Hospital Institute of Marseille Mediterranean Infection (IHU), conducted hundreds of studies on humans without appropriate ethical approval or oversight or adequate consent from all participants, the Science investigation found. The IHU work spanned a wide variety of research topics, which involved collecting a variety of biological samples from patients, including vaginal swabs, feces, blood, urine, and breast milk.

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The North Carolina State Senate on Wednesday voted 30–15, along party lines, in favor of a Republican bill that would make it illegal for people in the state to wear a mask in public for health reasons.

That seems incredibly shortsighted and cruel, but maybe they have a good reason…

The proposed ban on health-based masking is part of a larger bill otherwise aimed at increasing penalties for people wearing masks to conceal their identity while committing a crime or impeding traffic. The bill was largely spurred by recent protests on university and college campuses across the country, including North Carolina-based schools, against the war in Gaza. In recent months, there have been demonstrations in Raleigh and Durham that have blocked roadways, as well as clashes on the nearby campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Some demonstrators were seen wearing masks in those events.

Oh, I see. It’s about being able to punish people for expressing an unpopular (to them) opinion in a way that they deem to be inconvenient. Well, fuck all of that then.

Prior to 2020, laws dating back to 1953 largely prohibited public masking. The prohibition was part of a crackdown on “secret societies” at the time, or more specifically, an attempt to curtail the activities of the Ku Klux Clan in the state. Exemptions only existed for things like holiday costumes, theater productions, gas masks, and members of public parades or ceremonies that had obtained permits.

While I can appreciate and support the intention of limiting or eliminating groups like the KKK, I fail to see how prohibiting masks is much of a deterrent for anyone already planning to commit a crime. This feels like legislation that either exists to present the appearance of trying to do something about a problem, or it exists so that charges can be layered onto a suspect in order to increase their punishment. Neither of these reasons is worth more than public health, in my opinion.

On Wednesday, North Carolina residents with compromised immune systems spoke—while masked—during a public comment section. Simone Hetherington told lawmakers that masking was the only way to protect herself in public from illness and feared passage of the bill would prevent her from doing so, according to reporting by the Associated Press.

But, according to The News & Observer, Republicans were dismissive of that possibility, arguing that in the decades prior to the pandemic, when public masking was largely illegal, they couldn’t recall anyone being prosecuted for wearing a mask for health reasons.

In other words, this law that specifically criminalizes the behavior you just described will never be used in the way that we specifically wrote it, but rather in an entirely different way. If your law is badly written, write a better law. It’s almost as if laws written to broadly hurt people are a side effect of lazy or uncaring lawmakers, because writing a more specific law is either too difficult or too difficult to get passed.

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