We were on our way home yesterday and drove by a couple of restaurants (Wig & Pen Pizza and Vine Tavern and Eatery) with crowded parking lots. We have not seen that since the COVID-19 pandemic hit a year ago. This seemed to coincide with the CDC announcement of the new mask guidance indicating you can ditch the mask both outdoors and indoors—if you’re fully vaccinated. The updated guideline was a little hard to find on the CDC website, I noticed. It didn’t jump right out at you like the update on the pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
I checked the websites for both restaurants. They still say you have to wear masks. Pretty soon after that CDC update, news headlines appeared which provoked a few questions. How do you tell the difference between unmasked and masked persons who say they’re fully vaccinated? One headline said something like, “Get vaccinated or keep wearing your mask.”
And I saw a new term today, “vaccine bouncers.” Nobody wants to be a vaccine bouncer. In other words, since you can’t tell by looking at somebody if they’re fully vaccinated, how are you going to confirm the vaccination status of anyone? I don’t think there’s a lot of confidence in the ability to reliably detect the Pinocchio effect. And, regrettably, vaccination cards can be faked.
Some of us are vaccine hesitant. And some of us are unmask hesitant. Even though Sena and I are fully vaccinated, we still tend to wear masks indoors for now. And to be fair, the CDC guidelines stipulate that you should abide by local rules on wearing masks if required by public transportation and stores. But those guidelines are rapidly changing, maybe a little too rapidly for those who paid attention to daily scary news about upticks in coronavirus death rates when people sing too loud.
I feel like telling us to ditch the masks might be another way of offering an incentive to get vaccinated. Most of us hate masks. They’re hot, confining, make us feel too stifled to breathe easily, and so on. On the other hand, getting infected with COVID-19 is the ultimate respiration suppressor. As a recently retired general hospital psychiatric consultant, I’ve been called to critical care units to help manage anxiety in patients bucking respirators, which means they were fighting the ventilator tube. I didn’t have a whole lot to offer.
I think incentives are better than mandates, though (don’t spend it all in one place!). The best incentive is doing something to help all of us recover from the pandemic.