Today the CDC released guidelines about masking for FULLY vaccinated people. This indicates that the vaccines do a really job (which we already know and celebrate!). This post is not against the CDC – the new guidelines point strongly to the data that vaccines work really well. My worry is not with the CDC and colleagues that work there. (Shout-out to you CDC friends who are doing massive amounts of work!) My worry is that this will turn into not being about the vaccines anymore and turn into more individualized-styled-actions, rather than collective-solidarity. In other words, I think some will be given an inch, and take a mile. Why do I think that? Because that’s what we have seen the past year anyways.
Here are some thoughts:
- Was the motivation because they wanted to improve vaccine uptake? So, these new guidelines will be an incentive to get the vaccines? I don’t know, maybe. Will that work as an incentive? I don’t think so.
- The new guidelines suggest continuing to wear a mask if you are in large groups. It’s the honor system which I don’t trust anymore. This will disadvantage businesses, schools, etc to enforce – we all know that results in cashiers being yelled at.
- 35% OF THE US HAS BEEN FULLY VACCINATED. (46% have received one dose, which is what you see in Picture 1). ONLY 35%. We are nowhere near the 60% threshold we need to be (that’s the threshold where we really see a difference in transmission rates in other countries who are already there – like Israel). Look at the picture – we won’t get to the 60%ish until the fall.
- And, vaccine uptakes are going way down (Picture 2). So, there’s a chance that we won’t get to 60% by the projected timepoint of the late summer unless vaccine uptakes start going back up.
- Vaccine distribution in the US is still not equitable! (Picture 3). “Yet more than four months into the rollout, the most socially vulnerable counties in the U.S. have a lower vaccination rate on average than the nation’s least vulnerable.” Vulnerability is defined as counties with low income, poor access to healthcare, transportation issues, etc.
- There’s still a large amount of unvaccinated high-risk individuals who RELY on people telling the truth about whether or not they are vaccinated and acting accordingly with masking. They still rely on people recognizing this is not about you – this is still about the ‘other’. So, the questions of “Can I take my mask off if I’m only in a room of 9 instead of 11 people” or “Technically, I’m allowed to XYZ…” become unimportant. That’s getting lost in the weeds when it’s really about the bigger picture. Do I trust people to keep the bigger picture in mind to prevent more surges until we can get more people vaccinated? No.
What does all of this mean? There are still neighbors who are the ones left behind and STILL vulnerable (Picture 3 communities, children, high-risk adults, etc). I will continue wearing my mask. My family will too. Is this virtue signaling? Only if you believe in the Good Samaritan story (for you Christians out there) and the sentiment of love-thy-neighbor which transcends any and all religions. I’m happy with the virtue signaling when it points to that.
For the Good Samaritan Story, I will not walk by. I’m keeping my mask on.
This is still about equity and loving our neighbors.