I don’t always blog on Saturday, but when I do it’s because I have something I need to get off my chest.
This week, the CDC provided guidance to state and federal policymakers that fully vaccinated people (two weeks after their final shot) can do just about everything they did before the pandemic without needing to wear a mask. There are a few notable exceptions like when people are using public transportation and are in a medical center. To be honest, universal masking should just be a requirement in medical settings henceforth. Infection control is the way to go, and I am willing to die on that hill. I tweeted as much this morning:
I will also keep wearing my mask on airplanes like I did in the pre-pandemic days. Evidence below:
My confidence in the CDC’s recommendations is strong. As I have blogged a few times throughout the pandemic, my risk tolerance has been in near constant flux based on the information I have around me. Ever since I crossed the fully vaccinated threshold, I have begun to lower most of the walls around my high-risk self. I started going back to class, going to the bar with some friends in town, restaurants, and other things in between. I also don’t have much of a problem hanging out with larger groups of vaccinated people.
Now comes the question, will I take my mask off in all the settings CDC has laid out? Yes.
My answer is a resounding yes because I have a boat load of confidence in Moderna’s vaccine. The real-world evidence surrounding the vaccine’s effectiveness has been more than enough to convince me that it works extremely well. It’s also quite clear to me that the so-called “breakthrough” infection (when a vaccinated person is infected with coronavirus or variant) rate is also quite low, and when it does happen the outcome risk is also extraordinarily small. Most cases seem to be picked up because of routine testing scenarios.
My confidence in mask-less living is also driven by the unique circumstances of my living situation. Because I’m still a university student, I am subscribed to a comprehensive COVID-19 screening program. My classmates have also rolled out an informal vaccine acceptance registry to help folks make good decisions about the kind of risk they are willing to tolerate. The vaccine uptake among my classmates is extremely high – near 100% – well above the national averages. Combine that with the testing requirements imposed on students, its very easy to know how much disease is circulating in our community and where there might be cracks in our collective armor.
That all said, I will continue to wear a mask when asked by a business or where a requirement is still in place – like Dartmouth’s campus. Why? It is common decency.
It is simple enough to throw a mask back on if someone is asking. It shouldn’t even be a question, you just do it.
Slinging criticism at people who still choose to wear a mask after vaccine is a painfully pathetic waste of time. Why even do it? It is like criticizing someone wearing glasses. Does it have any impact on your life? No.
Ultimately what you do with your mask when you are fully vaccinated is your choice. It will take different amounts of time for people to get comfortable with going mask-less, and that is TOTALLY FINE!
Your confidence drivers might be different than mine or even the same, just interpreted differently, and that’s also fine.
The only recommendation I’ll make here is that its important to keep having conversations with yourself about risk tolerance. I will continue to reevaluate where I stand on a lot of my behaviors and will especially be thoughtful once the Fall rolls around. If last year’s epidemic curve taught us anything, its likely there is some seasonality component to COVID-19, and for that reason I will continue to update my risk tolerance based on real world evidence. For now, though, my mask will stay in my pocket until I’m asked to put it back on.