To Mask or Not To Mask

The CDC came out last week with new advice: people who are fully vaccinated for the covid-19 virus are no longer advised to wear masks in most situations, indoors and outdoors — despite the fact that most epidemiologists still believe we should be wearing them.

I believe this announcement is premature, and worry that it is motivated by politics more than science. About 36 percent of us in the U.S. are fully vaccinated. In other words, 64 percent of people are not. This is no time to relax. We should continue to wear masks and take other precautions until more people are protected. It’s true that the CDC is now saying that vaccinated people are unlikely to spread the virus. But we can still contract it. And while it’s true that a vaccinated person will have a mild case, I personally don’t want to have any case at all. But my own safety is not what worries me.

If the rules say that vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks, what is to keep unvaccinated people from pretending to be vaccinated? Those that do are putting themselves and others at risk. Some people just don’t want the vaccination — because our former president told them the virus is not a threat, because they believe lame-brain conspiracy theories about implanted microchips or the mark of the Devil, or because they don’t trust the government to make sure the vaccine is safe. If it were just them at risk, I wouldn’t worry so much. But many people cannot be vaccinated, even if they want to be. It has not been approved yet for anyone under 12. And a few people have allergies or other medical conditions that make the vaccine dangerous for them. In addition, some people with compromised immune systems — such as cancer patients — find that the vaccine will not protect them against the virus, even though they are at particularly high risk for life-threatening symptoms.

The people who cannot currently be helped by the vaccine will be a lot safer if everyone who is not vaccinated wears a mask. And the only way we can ensure this is to ask everyone, vaccinated or not, to wear a mask in public. Until the vaccination percentages look better, I will continue to wear mine.

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