Have you heard the one about the CDC scientist who walked into a bar? “Why the long face?” asks the bartender. Scientist says, “Because nine counties in New Jersey should start masking again.”

Only it’s not a joke. But it will be regarded as one.

The Centers for Disease Control has recommended going back to masking due to nine counties falling back into the high transmission category for the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Those counties are Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Gloucester, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean and Sussex.

Considering four of those counties make up Jersey Shore tourism and we are days away from the unofficial kickoff to the summer season, this of course will not be welcomed. And I would be stunned if it happened.

Remember the battle in “Jaws” between the mayor who wanted to keep the beaches open and Chief Brody who wanted them shut down? In this case, the shark is the BA.2 variant.

But there’s a problem here. Yes, people can (and do) still die from COVID-19 caused by the latest variant, but the death rates have been far lower even though the variant is more contagious than ones past.

At some point, as I’ve said from the beginning, society has to decide what’s an acceptable number of dead.

If that sounds cold, consider we do it all the time.

We do it in past flu seasons when no masks were required.

We do it in automotive safety engineering weighing cost against lives.

We do it when setting speed limits. (In other words, if the "if it saves just one life it’s worth it" mentality had its way, all speed limits would be 10 mph, right?)

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Also, while masks were proven early on by credible science to somewhat slow the spread of the early variants, this latest one is a challenge. Consider what emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, Dr. Leana Wen, told CNN.

“A simple cloth mask is much less effective, especially against a variant as contagious as BA.2,” said Dr. Wen. And while she says the heavy-duty N95 masks would do some good, those aren’t what most people have used.

So you could make the most gallant effort to try to force people back into masks in those nine New Jersey counties and do an all-out public relations blitz brilliantly designed by “Mad Men”’s Don Draper to get them all to use N95s, and it won’t work.

Not to mention the pushback after pandemic fatigue long ago set in. Remember the acts of violence? They’d be child’s play compared to what would happen now.

No one is stopping you from wearing a mask if you want to. To force it on those who don’t at this point in the game is far more trouble than it’s worth.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.

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