In Kansas, there has been an ongoing battle over a mask mandate that has pitted pro-mask Democrats against anti-mask Republicans. This political cleavage has given medical researchers a perfect opportunity to measure how effective masks are in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

What researchers found is that COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates are dramatically higher in areas where there is strong resistance to wearing masks compared with areas where mask use is widespread. 

Of course, this is simple science, not simpleminded politics, so we cannot expect anyone, such as President Donald Trump, to be swayed by such statistics. It is idiotic that taking this effective precaution against a deadly pandemic has become a left/right issue, but that is where we are in a country where a significant share of the population gets its information from web sites that promote conspiracy theories and ideology-driven, right-wing media, like Fox News and talk radio.

In a year or two, COVID-19 may be contained. Frighteningly, the pandemic of paranoia and misinformation is far more resistant to science, facts and rationality.

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