By MARSHA MERCER
In the grocery store for two items, I apologized for forgetting my mask, even though most customers weren’t wearing them.
“That’s OK. You don’t have to wear one,” the masked checker said with a shrug.
I told her I’d just heard news the government is again recommending masks in some public places.
“Oh, I don’t pay attention to the news anymore,” she said.
Some Americans are understandably sick of hearing about the pandemic, but ignoring reality is dangerous to one’s health, as well as to one’s friends and family.
For those of us who are paying attention, the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control was a setback. So much for the “summer of joy.”
President Joe Biden optimistically predicted in June this would be “a summer of freedom. A summer of joy,” mainly because of free and readily available vaccinations against COVID-19.
Despite an array of inducements, only about 49% of the entire population and 57.6% of those 12 and older were fully vaccinated, as of July 27. Meanwhile the highly contagious delta variant is surging, especially among the unvaccinated.
Let’s call the unvaccinated what they are: the Grinches who stole the summer of joy.
Chief Grinch may be Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, who tweeted about the new CDC guidance: “Hell no. This is politics, not science.” That’s absurd.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, the minority leader, claimed the masking guidance was “conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in perpetual pandemic state.”
“He’s such a moron,” reporters heard House Speaker Nancy Pelosi say as she was getting into a car.
So, now, conscientious Americans are helping protect the reckless. Fully vaccinated people need to mask up again indoors in areas with high COVID-19 transmission rates, per the CDC. These include many counties in Virginia.
While 80% of those infected with the delta variant are unvaccinated, vaccinated people rarely become infected as well, and their viral load is similar to the unvaccinated, meaning both the unvaccinated and the vaccinated can spread the variant.
“The delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us and be an opportunist,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday in a briefing. “This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations.”
It’s tempting to say the unvaccinated made their choice and deserve what they get. But children under 12 are not yet being vaccinated, and no one wants them to get sick. The CDC also recommends that all students, teachers, staff and visitors to K-12 schools wear masks this fall, regardless of vaccination status.
Fully vaccinated people in areas with low transmission may choose to mask to protect household members who are unvaccinated, immunocompromised or at increased risk of disease.
And there’s another, more important, reason to mask up. The largest concern among public health officials is potential mutations from the delta variant that could evade vaccines, which currently protect the vaccinated from severe illness and death.
Masks are a good step, but the real solution to the pandemic and the key to returning to normalcy is vaccinations.
Sadly, the very people who would benefit most from masks and vaccinations are least likely to follow the guidance. Largely Republican, white male conservatives believe masks and vaccinations are an assault on their freedom and would rather trust false conspiracy theories and misinformation on the Internet than the government.
We’d all be better off if more politicians were like Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader of the Senate, who has promoted COVID-19 vaccinations all along and will spend tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds on radio ads in his home state, encouraging people to get vaccinated.
Biden is taking the right step in requiring federal employees to be vaccinated or face rigorous testing and social distancing. States and cities are doing the same. Some employers, notably Delta and United airlines and The Washington Post, are requiring proof of vaccination.
Mandate is a fighting word to many, but we are headed that way, unless more people do the right thing and roll up their sleeves. The Grinches can’t be allowed to steal our future, too.
(C) 2021 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.
© 2021 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.