At first a public health emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic is increasingly being turned into what officials of tyrannical governments love most: an exercise in conformity and peer-enforced obedience to any regulation.
In Wisconsin, the head of the Department of Natural Resources has told employees that they must wear face masks during teleconferences or “Zoom” sessions — even when they are sitting at home in front of their laptops and at no risk of catching or spreading the mysterious coronavirus.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Natural Resources Secretary Preston Cole told staff in a July 31 email that because Gov. Tony Evers’ mask order was taking effect the next day, every DNR employee must now wear a mask while in a DNR facility.
“Also, wear your mask, even if you are home, to participate in a virtual meeting that involves being seen — such as on Zoom or another video-conferencing platform — by non-DNR staff,” said Cole, an appointee of the Democratic governor.
Then came the peer-pressure play:
“Set the safety example which shows you as a DNR public service employee care about the safety and health of others.”
From a medical viewpoint, masks are needed at home only in limited situations, such as if someone in the household actually has COVID-19, said Nasia Safdar, medical director of infection control at UW Health.
“Beyond that, there is not a reason to routinely wear a mask in your home if that risk isn’t there,” she said.
Safdar said wearing a mask on a Zoom call may be a way to show support for the idea, but, “in general I would tie mask use to transmission risk, and that doesn’t seem to be a good reason to wear it.”
GOP Rep. Joe Sanfelippo of New Berlin said the DNR’s position that employees should wear masks for teleconferences is ridiculous. “I’m more inclined to support things that actually do help as opposed to just putting on an appearance of helping,” he said.
DNR spokeswoman Megan Sheridan said the agency wanted to create “a very visual reminder to all that wearing a mask in a public setting helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.”