- Dec 3, 2017
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
Addressing anti-mask protests poses a challenge for leaders, experts say
Quebec's COVID-19 case numbers hit their highest numbers since the end of May this weekend, but some anti-mask protestors are still not worried.
Quebec’s COVID-19 case numbers hit their highest numbers since the end of May this weekend, but Alexandre Laberge-Ayotte wasn’t worried.
Laberge-Ayotte and a handful of other protesters stood outside a Montreal subway station on Saturday, chanting “Liberty!” and waving Quebec flags in one of a number of demonstrations taking part around the province to protest mandatory mask wearing and call for an end to the government state of emergency aimed at fighting the pandemic.
This demonstration was small, with two dozen protesters or less. Others have been much larger, including one that took place a week earlier in Montreal that drew thousands of people.
But while the scope of the anti-mask movement remains unclear, choosing how to address the underlying sentiment poses a challenge to leaders struggling to maintain clear messages and public trust, according to several experts who spoke with The Canadian Press.
Maya Goldenberg, an associate professor of philosophy at York University whose research focuses on medical beliefs, says anti-mask sentiment is likely a symbol of a larger uncertainty “of what the pandemic will do to us in the long term.”
READ MORE: COVID-19: Quebec reports over 400 new cases for 2nd consecutive day
“It becomes a thing to invest energy in, as a way to broadcast a sort of general discontent about how things are and how they might go,” Goldenberg said in a phone interview.
Laberge-Ayotte, for his part, says he’s not anti-mask, but rather “pro-choice.”
He’s calling for an end to the state of emergency, which he calls “disproportionate” to the situation. He is also skeptical of some of the numbers provided by the government, including those on deaths, and does not think the rising number of positive tests is concerning because he believes most cases are asymptomatic.
In fact, recent research indicates asymptomatic cases likely account for about 40 to 45 per cent of COVID-19 infections. Those patients can also transmit the virus to others for an extended period, “perhaps longer than 14 days,” according to the review published this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
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Goldenberg said those who question public health officials or scientists on the effectiveness of masks or vaccines usually do so from a place of “broader mistrust” of the system as a whole.
Just like the virus.