Here's why I'll still wear a mask in indoor public places awhile regardless of new CDC guidance


So, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued some pretty big news yesterday:

Federal health officials on Thursday advised Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus that they could stop wearing masks or maintaining social distance in most settings, the clearest sign yet that the pandemic might be nearing an end in the United States.

The new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caught state officials and businesses by surprise and raised a host of difficult questions about how the guidelines would be carried out. But the advice came as welcome news to many Americans who were weary of restrictions and traumatized by the past year.

“We have all longed for this moment,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the C.D.C. director, said at a White House news conference on Thursday. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

It's important to note that "in most settings" caveat:

The C.D.C. advice does not override mask orders issued by states, counties or cities. Even fully vaccinated people are still told to cover their faces when flying or taking public transit, or visiting health care facilities,or congregate settings like prisons and homeless shelters.

The guidance leaves a number of issues unaddressed. There was no specific language about masking in schools, for instance.

More importantly...

About 36 percent of people in the United States are fully vaccinated, and there is no way to tell them apart from the 64 percent of people who are not. People who receive a vaccine are issued a white paper card, but online scammers have sold forged versions of those.


In the informal survey [of epidemiologists], 80 percent said they thought Americans would need to wear masks in public indoor places for at least another year. Just 5 percent said people would be able to stop wearing masks indoors by this summer.

In large crowds outdoors, like at a concert or protest, 88 percent of the epidemiologists said it was necessary even for fully vaccinated people to wear masks.

“Unless the vaccination rates increase to 80 or 90 percent over the next few months, we should wear masks in large public indoor settings,” said Vivian Towe, a program officer at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Granted, epidemiologists tend to err on the cautious side of situations like this, but the point is that they still don't know enough about the virus to determine exactly when "herd immunity" kicks in. The assumptions seem to range anywhere from 70 - 90% depending on which expert you ask.

As I noted yesterday:

  • You go to a grocery store. You're vaccinated, so you don't wear a mask. How the hell is anyone else supposed to know whether you aren't wearing a mask because you're vaccinated, or you aren't wearing one because you're an asshole?
  • I'm not just talking about getting dirty looks from other customers, I mean in terms of actual store are they supposed to enforce it without an official "vaccine passport" etc?
  • As others have noted, it's also a problem for several million people who CAN'T take vaccines (or for whom the vaccine is ineffective) because they're immunocompromised or have an allergic reaction to them. They've been mostly holed up for over a year now...this means they'll have to stick it out even longer?
  • I'd rather be thought of as "being overly cautious" by half the population than be thought of as "being an asshole" by the other half.
  • My wife and I are fully vaccinated, but my 15-yr old hasn't been vaxxed yet. It'd be a dick move to be at a store w/him and not wear one while he still has to.

Granted, that last one will hopefully be resolved within the next 6 weeks (remember, it's 3-4 weeks between the first and second dose, and then another 2 weeks after that for the vaccine to take full effect), but the rest will continue to be an issue for quite awhile.

Will some sort of official vaccine passport be developed and mandated? Possibly, but that will take months of political squabbling and lawsuits before it's in place at best; until that's in place, those white cardboard CDC cards (which don't fit in your wallet easily, I should note) are the closest thing we have...and as noted in the NY Times article, they're way too easily to fake.

Meanwhile, while the COVID vaccines are extremely effective and the numbers are dropping dramatically nationally, there's still a lot of hot spots, and there's still upwards of 40,000+ Americans testing positive and 700+ dying of it every day around the country.

The larger point is that, at least for myself, between "wearing a mask" and "social distancing" it's the latter which is a far bigger inconvenience to daily life except for certain situations involving eating/drinking (restaurants/bars) or heavy breathing like exercise/playing sports. I don't go to bars, I'm not much of an athlete, and I exercise at home anyway, so for me that pretty much just leaves eating at indoor restaurants.

Beyond that, I don't see what the big deal is about wearing a mask for a few more months, given all the reasons listed above and more. I'll probably continue to do so in indoor public situations until Oakland County, Michigan (where I live) reaches at least, say, 70% of the entire population being fully vaccinated. That may take most of the summer to accomplish (Oakland County is a little under 47% right now), but wearing a tiny strip of fabric on your face for an hour or two every once in awhile continues to be a pretty small inconvenience.

P.S. As for the "I thought you said we should follow the science!" response, Jason Sattler (aka LOLGOP on Twitter) said it best in his own USA Today Op-Ed yesterday:

The CDC eased mask guidance but didn't say you shouldn’t wear a mask, can't wear one or are entitled to mouth off about other people wearing masks.

If you're fully vaccinated and want to remove yours, be my guest...but as Sattler notes:

REMINDER: There are lots of good reasons people may continue wearing masks and all of them are none of your goddammed business.

— LOL GOP (@LOLGOP) May 14, 2021