Photo by Finnegan Courtney ’23
Recently, the CDC and state governments across the country announced that, with some exceptions, masks will no longer need to be worn by those who are fully vaccinated. Of course, this doesn’t mean every single person in the world who is vaccinated will suddenly take their masks off in some dramatic way. The exceptions to these rules are more roadblocks than those on the way to a maskless world.
To be fair, I’m not advocating for everyone going maskless and us removing all safety precautions and regulations just yet. But, the question being asked right now by many is why? Why are some places, such as schools and some stores, still requiring masks? It’s because of a very simple reason: not everyone is vaccinated yet. We, as a collective community, are unable to move into a maskless state unless a great majority of us are fully vaccinated.
Of course, we are still in the process of fully vaccinating our citizens, so we can not assume that everyone will be vaccinated. Some could be simply waiting for their opportunity to get a first or second dose and some could be immuno-compromised, which could prevent some from getting it. Or, some can be perfectly healthy people who simply don’t want to get vaccinated.
That last one is the most dangerous option, and it is happening at the worst possible time as people are fearing the science and holding no confidence in any of the vaccines, despite the overwhelming evidence showing their success.
And while masks are no longer required in many places, many citizens are choosing to keep their masks on rather than take them off. One of these reasons is not being fully vaccinated yet, others may not want to be the first one to take their mask off in a store. Trader Joe’s, for example, is a store where masks are no longer required to be worn by their customers. I went into that store this week and with the exception of one woman, everyone was still masked, despite the policies in places.
Maybe many at the store weren’t fully vaccinated yet, a distinct possibility. Maybe some enjoy wearing masks for an unknown reason. But my firm belief here is that there is now some kind of stigma about being the one not wearing a mask, even in a place where they are no longer required. If you are fully vaccinated after two weeks, in the places where we are legally allowed to, you should be able to take your mask off without the fear of stigma or repercussions.
Eventually, there will come a time when all mask requirements are wiped away in this country and when that time comes, when the President of the United States, our government and Anthony Fauci all come together and say, ‘Hey you! The masks can come off everywhere now,’ then we should listen to them. Then, we should celebrate and revel at the end of this horrible pandemic. We cannot live our lives in fear of judgment if we are fully vaccinated and with the end of the pandemic nearly in clear sight now.
It is important now, perhaps more than ever not to judge our fellow community members. I implore you: Do not judge those who are fully vaccinated for removing their masks if you aren’t. If you are purposefully not vaccinated, you have absolutely no right to be mad at others for doing so.
The process and outcome of re-entering the world following this brutal pandemic is an uncertain and history-making, albeit tragically, event. And once we are all vaccinated, we should be able to feel free. Individuals should not have to live in fear of judgment if they choose to remove their mask where possible, that is not a society any of us want. There’s certainly a stigma about being the first to take off a mask. But, to all of those who are currently fully vaccinated, with hopefully many more to join them, and questioning whether or not to remove your mask in a place where you can, then they should be allowed. Because if we pass judgment upon them, then how can we ever hope to return to a normal, post-pandemic life?