Here are the problems I see with the CDC’s advice that vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks which is not in sync with the World Health Organization’s guidance that vaccinated people continue to wear masks:
- The CDC guidance was touted by the Biden Administration as an incentive to get vaccinated, but in effect it just made it easier for the non-vaccinated not wear a mask. A better incentive would be to say that your town, city, county, or state can go maskless after you get to at least a 70% vaccination rate and cases are below a certain safe level.
2. It had the psychological effect of making people think that the pandemic was over before there was an optimal amount of the population vaccinated. It is far from over, and new, more contagious, and deadly variants are continuing to develop.
3. It appealed to the individual self interest of not wearing a mask as a reward for being vaccinated instead of encouraging us all to mask up for a few more months for the common good until we got a large enough percentage of the population vaccinated to crush the virus.
4. It makes things very difficult now that we are seeing community spread to tell people to get the masks back on as the World Health Organization is encouraging us to do. It would have been much easier to encourage people to go a few more months with masks than to let them take them off for a few months only to tell them they need to put them back on now.
5. The reward of not wearing a mask for being vaccinated ignored the possibility, dare I say probability, that we would hit a wall in our vaccination program that would allow variants to develop in the unvaccinated population that would more likely break through the protection of the vaccines.
6. By telling vaccinated people that it was “safe for them” not to wear a mask, the CDC sent a mixed message that conflicted with their earlier guidance on wearing masks. The main reason to wear a mask is not to make us safe but rather to keep others around us safe in case we are unaware we have the virus and might pass it on to them. We are seeing more breakthrough cases now with vaccinated people who may not even know they have COVID-19, yet may still be contagious. Masks are not primarily about me but about how I can care for and protect others. The reward of “not wearing a mask because it is safe for me not to” took the emphasis away from “us” and placed it on “me,” and that is not the mentality we need to crush this virus for the good of all.
7. It led to a mentality among some of the vaccinated to wash their hands of the pandemic and simply get back to normal. I have also heard some vaccinated people say that they don’t care if the unvaccinated get COVID-19 and get sick or die because it is their fault for not getting vaccinated, and I have heard others say that they should not have to wear a mask just because people are too stupid not to get vaccinated. Once again, this is not the mentality required to crush a virus.
Maybe we are not united enough, loving and empathetic enough, smart enough, or committed enough to beat this deadly virus before it mutates and kills thousands upon thousands more of us, but policies that focus on me rather than on us will not get us to the place we need to be. It is time for all of us to mask up again and for the love of all humanity if you have not already done so, please get vaccinated.