One of the leaders of a group pushing for the state to quickly ease restrictions put in place as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic said contracting the illness has not changed his thoughts on wearing face coverings.
Tim Walters, one of the organizers of Reopen Maryland, made his comments one day after announcing in a pair of videos on Facebook that he had been diagnosed with the virus. Walters, in an interview Friday, said that contracting the virus after months of not wearing masks has not changed his views on wearing facial coverings.
“Not at all,” he said. “And here’s why: because there’s too much proof that masks don’t work.”
Walters pointed to his work in construction where he has put up drywall, wearing filtration masks, only to find particles in his nostrils. The dust, he said, is larger than the virus.
“If we’re sick and I’m not wearing a mask and you are but I am more than six feet away, what does it matter?” he said.
Walters said his feelings about the masks and about contracting the virus are consistent with his views on both limiting government overreach and personal responsibility.
“Masks are an absolutely great tool for people that want to use them to use them,” he said. “If you think that you’re sick and you have to go out you should be, out of respect, in a mask.”
But he said they give a false sense of confidence.
“They’re not really going to do anything,” said Walters.
“I don’t care if you wear a mask or not. I’m not here to advocate for that. I think the government’s role is to educate us so we can make those informed decisions.”
Walters said he sees his dissent as a fight for personal liberties not for himself but for his children and grandchildren.
“We have to decide as a nation if this fear is worth our liberties because once we lose them, we don’t get them back,” he said.
Maryland has continued to see a decrease in both the number of confirmed daily cases as well as hospitalizations and patients in intensive care at a time when more than two dozen states are seeing increases and the U.S. posted 39,327 confirmed new cases — a new daily high.
Some of those states have paused reopening efforts and others are now requiring the use of face coverings.
In Maryland, where face coverings are required inside stores and other venues, Gov. Larry Hogan and state health officials have ramped up public education efforts to encourage the use of coverings to prevent spreading the virus.
“This event is not over,” said Dr. David Marcozzi, COVID incident commander for the University of Maryland Medical System and a member of Hogan’s coronavirus task force. We’re in a three-act play. Everyone should continue to be concerned. The actions we put in place now directly impact what the curve looks like in the fall. Make no mistake about it. What we do right now has direct implications to what the fall wave looks like.”
Marcozzi said the use of face coverings, from medical grade masks to homemade coverings, help limit transmission of the virus by reducing the amount of airborne droplets from talking, coughing and sneezing.
“You can quibble about it on the periphery about the degree to which masks help, however, overall, there is no question in my mind that mask use is beneficial to decrease the spread of this virus,” said Marcozzi. “The challenge is me wearing a mask helps decrease my transmission to you. You wearing a mask helps decrease your transmission to me. So we are our brother’s keeper in this response.”
Encouraging wider use of masks has been complicated by a number of factors, including politicization and mixed messages from health officials including the Center for Disease Control, Marcozzi acknowledged.
Federal officials initially discouraged the use of masks soon after the virus appeared in the United States but later recanted those comments, saying it was meant to protect supplies for hospital workers and first responders.
Marcozzi said mixed messages also come from public officials who either are slow to endorse the use of masks or refuse to use them at all.
“The governor of this state wears masks and endorses the use of them as much as possible,” said Marcozzi.
Walters announced his diagnosis in two videos posted on Facebook Thursday that he was diagnosed with the disease and is quarantined until at least July 7. The videos, which will be posted daily, are meant to transparently document his battle with the virus.
“I felt ok this morning, but I do not now,” said Walters, in a video posted Thursday afternoon on the group’s Facebook page. The video was the second of the day for Walters, who said he intended to document his battle with the virus.
“I got to tell ya, I think I’m a pretty tough guy, but it kicked my butt today,” said Walters, who once served in the military.
Walters on Friday afternoon said he removed the videos and would post no more updates after he said his wife and son become the target of “vitriolic messages,” including some he characterized as praying for his death or the death of his family as a result of contracting the virus.
Walters said he has a number of health issues, including diabetes and a history of several strokes.
“As a military guy, I’ve treated my body unhealthily, let’s just say that,” he said in a video. ” Other than that I’m as healthy as a mule.”
Speaking to a reporter Friday, he said that he and his doctor do not believe he is at higher risk for more dire complications because of those underlying conditions, despite diabetes being one listed by the CDC.
“I knew this was a possibility and I got sick,” he said. “OK, I’m going to take accountability for it. For the most part it hasn’t changed my view on any of this, and in the end I think everyone is going to get it, anyway. We need to get it for herd immunity.”
He said he does not deny that the virus exists or that it can, in some cases, cause death.
“The virus is real and kills,” he said.
Walters said he had been dealing with a dry cough since March that quietly went away before coming back “with a vengeance” in recent days.
“The big question I get is where did ya get it from? No idea,” said Walters. “I will tell you that I went out for months at rallies so on and so forth. Nothing. I started at church and, bam, here I am. I personally believe that this is just a component of spiritual warfare that we’re all in and Satan is trying to stifle my voice and it won’t work because Jesus has told me that just rest, I got this for ya. So I’m going to rest and I’m going to preach from my couch for a while.”
Reopen Maryland was organized in April to oppose what members saw as a heavy-handed government approach to mitigating the virus. The group held a rally in Annapolis and later a caravan from Frederick to the Eastern Shore. The group has also held a number of other events including “no face mask flash mobs” where members go to local businesses, such as a Home Depot in Columbia, without wearing a face covering. The rallies were an effort to pressure Hogan to ease restrictions on businesses.
“It’s funny how capricious this thing is,” said Walters, who turns 53 in July.
Walters, in his video, urged people he had been around in the last two weeks to get tested if they felt the need.
“I will not share anybody’s information with the government,” said Walters, acknowledging that he expected to be contacted by contact tracers whose job it is to determine who else may have been exposed and requires treatment or isolation.
Health experts say contact tracing is one of the key components — along with widely available testing — in limiting spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Walters, a government consultant and Anne Arundel County resident, reiterated in an interview Friday that he objected to giving the government personal information of his friends but said he has contacted every person he has been in contact with in the last two weeks to alert them to his positive test status. He added that he has not been contacted by contact tracers from the state or county health departments.
“Anybody that’s waiting for the government to tell them to do the right thing because they couldn’t figure it out, they’re going to be sorely disappointed,” said Walters.