It was never about the science.

When the first COVID-19 mandates were issued in hopes of turning back a mysterious pandemic, there wasn't enough science or data available to know for certain what would work.

It was all best guesses and speculation, and a desperate instinct to do something in the face of a lethal public health threat unseen in our lifetimes.

COVID had its way with us no matter what protective orders were put in place. But few policymakers were willing to risk abandoning their edicts, even when the virus defied them.

Suddenly, though, keeping mask mandates and other restrictive measures in place has become riskier to the politicians who ordered them than the potential for another COVID surge.

Indoor masking requirements are coming off even in states run by Democrats. California, New York, New Jersey and Delaware are among the blue states that are shedding masks this week.

What changed?

COVID hasn't gone away. Nationwide, roughly 250,000 new cases are reported every day, and 2,400 deaths. While daily cases have dropped over the past 30 days, daily deaths increased.

Yet the masks are going even in states where they've been akin to a cloak of righteousness. Why?

Because it's an election year, and masks mandates are not polling well, particularly among parents of schoolchildren. Governors notice what happened in Michigan, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer backed off the active management of the pandemic last fall and has watched her approval numbers climb.

Omicron has tipped the balance. The highly contagious variant has blown past masks, as well as vaccines, to infect even those who are most vigilant in following the protective protocols.

Last month, the CDC said the cloth and paper masks most of us have strapped across our faces are not very effective in screening omicron particles. If it's not an N-95 mask or the equivalent, its protection is uncertain.

And yet wearing the flimsier versions allows us to go to school, fly on airplanes and fully participate in society. It makes no sense.

We have also surrendered to the reality we can't hide from COVID. Lockdowns and school closures didn't stop the spread and were largely abandoned.

Even vaccines have proved not to be the answer we had hoped. Eighty percent of the nation, age 5 and up, has had at least one dose of the vaccine, and yet the hospitals are filled with COVID patients.

Forcing compliance with ineffective measures does, however, give us someone to blame for the persistence of the pandemic — the virus is spreading because certain groups of people aren't wearing masks, or aren't social distancing, or aren't getting the shots, etc.

Omicron has demonstrated that no matter what we do, the virus will persist until it tires of tormenting us.

For two years we've put up with limits on our freedom in hopes of beating COVID. But it's in our national DNA to resist arbitrary dictates that don't produce results.

People are plain fed up. And once politicians realize the consequences of that, political science is the only science that matters.