If you’re anything like me, you have masks tucked everywhere: in the glove compartment of your car, in your handbag, in the house, in random pants pockets — and that’s just for me. My wife and I carry paper ones in both of our cars in case someone forgets their fabric mask. With three quarters of my family fully vaccinated, I am now very confused by the craziness that is circulating about being maskless or not. Some places require masks upon entrance, while others do not. Some enforce mask wearing; others don’t. So, what do you do? Mask up or mask off? Do you go shopping without a face covering? Do you mask your children or not? I am the cautious — sometimes overly cautious — mother, so I mask up in public and I make my kids as well.
The last time I saw Dr. Fauci’s face this ashen, it was when then President Trump suggested we ingest bleach to cure COVID-19. With the new guidelines by the CDC about mask wearing and conflicting information from the WHO, we don’t know what the hell to do. What we do know is that the Delta variant is on the rise, and as of mid-July the variant accounted for approximately 83% of COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to CDC estimates.
Scared yet? No? Within two weeks time, the number of people diagnosed with the Delta variant rose 20%. I’m not that great at math, but this is real basic — if the number of confirmed cases are on the rise in the United States, why wouldn’t we tighten our mask wearing restrictions? Of course we all want to hang out at the beach, make new friends on the boardwalk, have barbeques with friends, and celebrate just being alive and surviving a shitty, shitty year and a half.
But it just ain’t safe, folks, to be maskless and not worry. Right now it’s impossible for the two to coexist.
The WHO says to wear a mask, as does President Biden’s Surgeon General, Vivek H. Murthy, who recently said he supports reinstating the mask wearing policies that states enacted and enforced as numbers increased across the world. The WHO is looking at the pandemic and the increase in numbers across the world, not just in the United States.
Then we have the CDC, who in late June released guidelines that stated we did not need to wear masks in outdoor settings. They also stated that those who are two years old or older and are not fully vaccinated should wear a mask indoors. On July 19, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidelines and recommends universal masking. In an interview with CNN, Dr. Fauci said, “The CDC always leaves open the flexibility at the part of local agencies, local enterprises, local cities and states to make a judgment call based on the situation on the ground. So, I think that the American Academy of Pediatrics — they’re a thoughtful group, they analyze the situation — and if they feel that is the way to go, I think that is a reasonable thing to do.”
Professor Cynthia Baur of the University of Maryland School of Public Health shares, “Telling people they can take their masks off if they get vaccinated might motivate people to get vaccinated if there weren’t a lot of overlap between the anti-vaxxers and the anti-maskers. And the fact that those two groups are often the same means that that strategy does not work well.” Like Los Angeles, states (and the CDC) need to follow suit — requiring masks both indoors and outdoors — then we can all stop living in this weird in-between world of not knowing what to do regardless of our vaccination status.
It comes back to what we’ve known all along: use the common sense you have and wear a mask — if not at all times, then at least when you don’t know if the people you’re with are vaccinated. Which, let’s be honest, is most of the time. Otherwise, it’s as if we are all spreading diseases simply by breathing in the company of strangers.
We need to work together, as fellow Americans, to vaccinate ourselves and our kids when possible. We need to wear masks and take necessary precautions as we keep an eye on the news and on the rise in COVID numbers. Yes, states need to pay attention and enforce mandates to protect their residents. But like the WHO and the CDC, we need to all be on the same page, work together, and help decrease our infection rates.
The Delta variant has shown us that we aren’t out of the woods yet, so let’s take our blinders off — and put our masks on.