But mask-wearing among the vaccinated isn’t purely politics and obstinacy. While it’s impossible on outward appearances to indicate your vaccinated status (unless you go around wearing your “I GOT MY COVID-19 VACCINE” sticker on your sleeve), wearing a mask is a clear way to state where you stand on the safety — the very survival — of your family and your community, and it has been a clear way to know where others stand, too.
It’s still unclear, for example, whether the vaccines will offer long-term protection, or how much they will protect against the variants. Uncertainty produces anxiety. For some, mask wearing may help them regain a sense of control.
The biggest obstacle to allowing people to feel they can drop the mask under CDC guidelines may be messaging and trust. Trust in our government organizations and leaders, and in each other — won’t return until that messaging problem is resolved.
Instead, any appearance of confusion or contradiction that even seems to be coming from the top will help keep the us-versus-them mentality alive, especially when there are pundits who will take any chance to make the Democratic administration look bad.
Vague rules are fodder for political dissension.
But he must understand that in addition to keeping open the partisan rift his predecessor created, the risk in masking when not absolutely necessary is that it doesn’t exactly engender faith in the efficacy of the vaccine.
Of course, the “new normal” of Covid we’ve learned to live with didn’t happen in a day, and returning to the one we crave will take some time, too, no matter what our leaders signal to us about mask safety. The first step in getting there is to understand that uncertainty, dissension, disagreement — all of this is normal. We are all different. We all feel safe under different conditions.
For more than a year, masks have been standard operating procedure, and just as it was an adjustment to put them on, it will be one to take them off. On Twitter, NPR host David Greene likened going out without a mask to going out without pants. Most of us wouldn’t do that, no matter who told us it was safe. After all: What would the neighbors think?