healthcare, law

Freaking out over faltering federal mask mandates…

Well… just as I predicted last year, the time has come for governments around the world to reverse course on the pandemic. Not every government, mind you… I think I read that Australia is still pretty locked down, trying to keep COVID-19 at bay. But European countries are trying to find a way to open up a bit this summer, especially as people are finally getting vaccinated. In the United States, there was an even bigger surprise. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has stated that both fully vaccinated adults may now ditch their face masks indoors and outdoors in most situations.

This is a contrast to the advice given two weeks ago, that vaccinated adults could ditch their masks outside– and they could also potentially ditch them inside, but only if they’re with other fully vaccinated adults. Now they’re evidently saying it doesn’t matter if others aren’t also vaccinated. Masks among vaccinated people will, evidently, only be necessary at medical facilities and on public transportation, like trains, buses, and airplanes. A month ago, there was all this news about deadly new variants and how we’ll never reach herd immunity. And now, the news seems to be signaling the end, or at least a pause, in the worst part of the pandemic.

I remember last year, when all of this shit started, I told Bill that eventually, the government would be asking people to venture out again. They would do it because the economy would be in a shambles. I also predicted that many people would not want to venture out. They would be too shell-shocked and traumatized by all of the COVID-19 doom porn, even with all of the safety precautions in place. Sure enough, based on the comments I read on The New York Times piece I linked above, that is what has come to pass. Governments are now saying they want to reopen things– New York City has even made a plea for tourists to return. In Europe, governments are trying to find ways to open up to tourists so they can make money. Vaccines are supposedly working pretty well, although new COVID-19 variants are also coming out all the time. The face masks are a downer, and allowing people to dispense with them if they get the shot(s) is one way to encourage vaccine cooperation.

The funny thing is, all year I’ve been reading indignant comments from pro-mask people about how science changes, and that’s why in early March of 2020, we were all being told NOT to buy face masks by the U.S. Surgeon General, and then that advice had changed within weeks. Now, since the CDC is saying that vaccinated people will be able to enjoy some freedom, many of the same people who were once extolling the virtues of science and scientists, are now bitching about how it’s too soon to loosen face masking and allowing people to unmask will be a disastrous decision.

Quite a few people seem to think this rule relaxation was done purely for political reasons. Many people have expressed that they believe unvaccinated “anti-maskers” will use this new guidance as a reason to flout the rules. So many people, who had once praised Dr. Fauci and the CDC, are now saying that the decision to relax the mask rules is a terrible, unscientific idea that spells DOOM for everyone. And, perhaps rightfully so, people are saying that people have no honor, and there will be no way to enforce people to keep taking precautions until they have been vaccinated. Fake vaccination cards are already becoming a problem, and the conspiracy theorists worry that the vaccines have chips in them that will invade their privacy (seriously?).

What happened to all of the respect for scientists? All of a sudden, because the rules have abruptly changed, just as they did last year, the scientists are wrong and simply pandering to politicians? And now, all of the people who, a couple of months ago, were liberally quoting and religiously following the scientists, are saying they are going to rely on their own common sense? Isn’t that the same behavior they were shaming the “anti-vaxxers” and “anti-maskers” for doing? Also, again, I notice that the “experts” all seem to be saying different things… which means that everybody has to decide for themselves which one is correct, and which course of action will suit them best. Sounds a lot like life, to me.

Here’s what I think about those so-called “anti-vaxxers” and “anti-maskers”. First off, many of those people never followed the rules anyway, so it’s doubtful that this rule change will affect them. I mean… if they get sick from COVID-19, they’ll get sick. Some won’t get very sick. Some will die. That’s how it’s been all year. Lots of people are commenting that, despite being vaccinated, they will keep wearing a mask so they “won’t be mistaken for a Republican” or “to make other people feel better”– that is, the ones who are comforted by the sight of someone whose face they can’t see fully. Others, who have children that can’t yet be vaccinated, are saying they are going to keep wearing a mask for that reason, even though last year so many people were saying that the masks are intended to protect other people, and not the wearer. Now they’re saying that the masks also protect the wearer, which is probably what they should have said from the beginning. But see? The information is constantly changing, isn’t it?

Personally, I don’t find seeing everyone in face masks comforting. They are a constant reminder of how fucked up things are, how lonely I am (especially when my half vaccinated husband has to travel on business for weeks on end), and how I don’t enjoy this lifestyle at all. That’s just how I feel about it, though… and the person who IS comforted by face masks also has a right to their feelings and opinions about this issue. Fortunately, it’s not like face masks have been outlawed, so they are free to keep doing what they’ve always been doing. Given how many people in the USA were completely uncooperative regarding COVID-19 safety mandates anyway, I don’t think much is going to change in the wake of this new guidance.

Sadly, what it will boil down to is money… and the fact that the safety rules are very expensive in terms of the economy. Lots of people cheer when they read stories about anti-maskers being arrested, fined, jailed, or banned from services like airlines. But all of those measures cost money. Banning someone from an airline for not wearing a face mask often doesn’t just mean that one person is banned– it also means their immediate family will be effectively banned, even if they weren’t officially so by their airline, as will any loyal extended family members and friends who happen to be on their side of the issue. That could add up to a lot of missed revenue that affects people other than the folks running the airlines… it also might affect hotels, restaurants, tour operators, taxi drivers, and even retailers that sell travel gear. If I wanted to, I could probably sit here for an hour and think of all of the people that are potentially affected when someone gets banned for life from flying.

Now… I do think some good can come out of this past year of COVID-19 hell. Perhaps employers will rethink some of their more destructive policies, like encouraging workers to come into an office setting when they’re sick. Maybe working from home will become an even more viable solution for companies, which could mean that more children are raised by their actual parents instead of at a day care. Maybe there will be less vehicular congestion and accompanying air pollution, too, since people can roll out of bed and walk ten feet to their “office” instead of sitting in traffic for hours every day. And maybe airlines will stop cramming people into seats like sardines… although I would be VERY surprised if that happens.

I do think wearing the mask is a good idea if one is sick. Judging by the slow cold and flu season, they are helpful in that regard. However… I don’t think the enforced mask fashion is a sustainable concept. I’m glad to see it going. I hope it stays gone, although I’m not going to hold my breath. Fortunately, thanks to the vaccine and staying the fuck away from people (which is really the best way to avoid getting sick from a virus), it’s still possible for me to hold my breath.

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