I stopped wearing a pandemic mask in mid-May. I’m wondering if that was a mistake.
The CDC and reliable public health experts advise that fully-vaccinated people do not, for the most part, need to wear masks for their own protection any longer. Being fully-vaccinated, I don’t feel personally vulnerable without mine, even as the new variants gain ground in my state, where less than 50% of the population 16 and older is vaccinated.
My concern about going mask-less is that it creates a false sense that the pandemic is behind us.
It isn’t behind us.
In the US, estimated actual deaths, which dropped to as low as 300/day at the start of this month, are now expected to soar back above 1000/day this fall and stay at that level for an extended period. This will increase the total US death toll to 1,025,000 by October 31, a full 80,000 more than the current death toll. Almost all the projected deaths will be among the unvaccinated, and over 90% of them will be in the 28 vaccine-hesitant states where levels of vaccination continue to lag as low as 35%.
Seeing so many masked faces over the past year made us all acutely aware of our collective plight. Now that the masks are disappearing, we have no visual reminder that there is still trouble in River City, that people among us are still getting sick and dying from COVID-19, and that those numbers are likely to go up in spite of the fact that we have an effective vaccine.
Vaccine refusal is contributing to the rise in infections and deaths. This morning I read a polemic from a vax-refuser, just to get a sense of what the arguments are. I’m not linking to it, but a quick search will get you plenty of similar items, if you are inclined to seek them out.
I probably spend far too much time wondering what lies behind the baseline state of denial that undermines so many efforts to make things better for living things in general, and humans in particular. Be it living wages, ending forever wars, addressing the climate crisis, or coping with a major public health emergency, some large contingent always stands opposed, often for no discernable reason beyond ideology or the opportunity to profit from the status quo. Perhaps it’s just one more way in which the death cult of our casino economy tilts in favor of the House. Who gains when people are sick? What is the cost/benefit analysis?
I can feel myself falling into cynicism here. It’s barely a stumble anymore.
While I ponder these (largely rhetorical) questions, let’s not forget that we’re also having to combat the flawed argument that getting or not getting vaccinated against a deadly virus is somehow an individual choice unburdened by social responsibility. Such a quaint notion, that. You’re not the boss of me.
Our low vax numbers in Indiana put us in line with most of our Midwest and Middle South neighbors. It’s a pretty dismal picture. So I’m thinking of putting the mask back on, just to remind my fellow supermarket-shoppers and library-browsers that this thing ain’t over yet.