TO MASK OR NOT TO MASK
Many of us have been wearing masks for over a year and have looked forward to the day when our faces could be on full public display. The Coronavirus is showing signs of receding, at least in this country, and vaccination numbers are increasing.
The CDC has said that fully vaccinated people can do away with masks in most public places and that they do not need to social distance. Exceptions include public transportation such as buses, airplanes and hospitals.
The new CDC guidelines are confusing a lot of people as well as states and municipalities.
That is why many states have not lifted mask mandates and why large numbers of people seem to continue to wear masks in public. It is hard to gauge mask wearing all over the country, but in these parts in New England I am not seeing a lot of people following the CDC guidance.
So what is the safest action for people to take when it comes to mask wearing? I think it all comes down to how much risk you are comfortable taking and how likely you think contracting COVID will be in any particular situation.
The experts tell us that fully vaccinated people have a very low risk of getting COVID and that they are unlikely to transmit the virus to others. But low risk does not mean no risk. We have to consider the fact that COVID is a potentially deadly disease and that if a person does not die from it they still have a chance of suffering lingering symptoms for a long time.
The best we can do as a society is for as many people as possible to get vaccinated. Those who are skeptical of the vaccine will probably never change their minds and they are the people who will keep the virus alive. If there is a likelihood of contracting COVID it is greatest from the unvaccinated.
I have been skeptical of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine but have come to realize that if you look at the numbers of people vaccinated and the number of ill effects, that a case could be made that the COVID vaccine is the safest and most effective vaccine ever developed. We will not know if there are long-term side effects from the vaccine and that is the risk we weigh against contracting and spreading the disease.
The COVID virus will never be completely eliminated anytime soon and we have to accept that fact. That means that we all have to develop our own strategies for protecting ourselves. Anyone who is immune compromised or in ill health needs a higher level of protection from transmission and those people should wear masks indefinitely.
When public officials make recommendations they base them on levels of risk to the entire population. If the risk of transmission is low among school age children does that mean they no longer have to wear masks? It should mean that their parents should weigh the risks and decide what is best for their children.
The CDC guidance assumes that people will be honest about their vaccine status. That is not going to happen.
There will be no credible way for a person to know whether the person next to them in the supermarket has been vaccinated and that is something that scares me.
I will continue to wear a mask in most public places and only rely on the veracity of vaccination status of people I know for the foreseeable future. That is the world we are now living in.