Dr. McDonough (9/18) castigates the Bismarck School Board for not requiring masks and calls their decision “anti-science.” Perhaps he means that the Board’s decision disregards expert opinion which is so authoritative and settled that it is irrational and irresponsible to go against it. If so, he misrepresents the role and function of the Board, the actual state of the science, and the status of scientific opinion in general.
The Board’s job isn’t to march in lockstep with the Mayo Clinic or even our more compliant brethren in Fargo. The Board has to make local policy decisions, and this calls for weighing the evidence, doing risk analysis, and balancing costs and benefits. Even if McDonough is right about the effectiveness of masking, it still can be rational not to require masks. Policy judgments are more complex than McDonough thinks, and he is wrong to presume the Board didn’t do its job.
When deliberating policy, school boards function like juries. They have to make a decision. Experts can testify on both sides and offer their fallible opinions, but in the end the jury has to decide whom to believe. With regard to masking, maybe the Board heard from folks like McDonough. Maybe they also heard from folks like Dr. Scott W. Atlas, senior health advisor to a number of presidents, and learned the science is not settled. Many top infectious disease scientists and public health organizations question the efficacy of masking. Maybe they noticed that the public health elites in Washington have given conflicting advice on masking, have economic and political conflicts of interest, and have even flat-out lied to us.