The tough questions that have come up as we face what we hope are the waning days of this pandemic can easily cramp our brains with trauma. When and how should we travel? Should everyone who has been lucky enough to work at home go back to the office? Should I hug my grandma while I have a chance?
One answer, however, is simple. Possibly too simple. If you don’t like the idea of fully vaccinated people wearing masks outside, don’t wear one.
That’s how personal liberty works. If my breathing holes aren’t treading on you, they’re none of your business. Move on. Worry about something else.
Still upset by the sight of someone showing respect for their fellow humans or more than half a million dead Americans? Or maybe following doctor's orders about their own private medical issues, like cancer? Congratulations, you’re doing your best to make sure we never get out of this mess.
No freedom to harass mask wearers
“WHAT?” you may say. “WHY DO YOU HATE SCIENCE, YOU SCIENCE-HATING LIB?”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday in new guidance that fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks outside or in most indoor settings. What it didn't say, however, is you shouldn’t wear a mask or you can’t wear a mask or you're entitled to mouth off about other people’s masks.
Hundreds of corpses of people who died of COVID-19 in New York City are still lying in refrigerated trucks – and the few Americans who may appear overly cautious are being mocked as lockdown lovers or child abusers.
We are a nation bobbing in multiple crises. Not one of them involves people taking COVID-19 too seriously. Not even close. People are dying of desperate economic need, ignorance, the need for social interaction, bad policy and underlying health conditions exacerbated by our health care system. But not one American has died of being too diligent about masking.
What a lot of Americans have died of is a refusal to let the deadliest event of their lifetime affect their way of life. And I don’t really blame them for this. I blame the guy who championed this indifference for his fellow humans— former President Donald Trump.
Trump’s fans, as they often do, took his bad behavior as an excuse to be nearly as bad as him. They mocked mask wearing and red states in general embraced his call to reopen even as the death toll reached several thousands of Americans a day.
Thanks to inspired federal coordination that’s led to mass vaccinations, we’re finally working our way back to the COVID-19 case numbers we saw before the premature reopenings of last summer and fall.
But herd immunity may remain elusive, largely thanks to the same contingent that loves to mock masks. So some cities and college campuses went further than earlier CDC recommendations and kept their outdoor mask bans in public areas.
Solid reasons to wear masks
Figuring out why they did this was easy. These are areas where crowds may quickly form. The act of continually taking off and putting back on a mask – especially if done improperly – could lead to unnecessary transmission.
Yes, we need incentives to get people to vaccinate and the prospect of a maskless America appeals to that. But that's not what the mask mocking is about. It’s about the deniers' urge to minimize the concerns of the people who have risen to the challenge of the deadliest event of our lifetime.
Are we about to hit a vaccine wall? If you have doubts about getting the shot, reconsider.
Some people may go on wearing masks forever. They may be immunocompromised, anxious, or simply respectful of the horrors of the last 14 months that have scarred tens of millions, especially frontline workers, with PTSD. They may want to avoid allergies or the flu. Or they may just be smart, like the people who ignored CDC advice and started wearing a mask in early 2020. Whatever they are thinking, leave them alone.
And if you really want things to return to normal, invest your spare energy in getting our fellow Americans vaccinated. Stop imitating Trump and take a hint from Minnesota's Democratic governor, Tim Walz.
"There’s a lot of good reasons to get vaccinated," Walz said Tuesday. "If you need another one, go get vaccinated so you’re alive to vote against me in the next election."
Jason Sattler, a writer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and host of "The GOTMFV Show" podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @LOLGOP
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: CDC updated masks guidance but don't harass people who still wear them