President Joe Biden is giving a Monday update on the nation’s COVID-19 pandemic response, and despite some hectic recent days it seems the news will be mostly good. There is now enough data in for federal experts to feel confident that vaccinated Americans can safely drop their masks most of the time; the vaccine is effective even against the multiple currently circulating variants, and vaccinated people are at little risk of catching COVID-19 or of spreading it to others.
The “hectic” part is because the CDC released their new masks-optional guidance with little advance notice to the White House or anyone else, resulting in chaos as states and federal agencies scrambled to understand how the new guidelines should affect their own issued safety guidelines. While the CDC’s shift was partially justified by the belief that most Americans who have wanted to be vaccinated have already been vaccinated, other experts angrily pointed out that that isn’t true: Teens, for example, were only just given the go-ahead for vaccination. Even teens vaccinated that first day wouldn’t have built up the required immune response yet.
The nation is now in the uneasy transition period that was long expected, as more of the population becomes effectively immune to the pandemic-causing virus while an equally large or larger population remains at risk. Wearing masks is, for the vaccinated, now considered unnecessary—but for the unvaccinated, it remains an essential safety measure. In a public setting, how are either customers or workers supposed to know which of those around them are not wearing masks because they are immune, and which are not wearing masks because they are dangerously irresponsible?
While performatively brickheaded anti-maskers work feverishly (in some cases, literally) to paint continued mask-wearing by the vaccinated as outrageous or offensive, the more respectful public path will be to continue to wear masks around people you don’t know for at least a few more weeks. There is no reason to make all those around you wonder whether you are responsible or are dangerous—not after a full year of unmasked faces almost universally belonging to entitled, selfish, pandemic-denying assholes. States and counties with broad masking rules may not immediately relax them for that very reason.
The pandemic spread because Americans who should have known better traveled and acted as if the virus was of no concern to them. Vaccination rates may limit the spread—but it won’t fully stop it. It’ll take full herd immunity to do that.
With that goal in mind, public health agencies are now shifting to local and hyperlocal efforts to bring vaccine access to those who either have not been able to get to large mass vaccination sites or have so far resisted vaccination. As more of each vaccine is produced and supply problems begin to ease, distribution efforts can broaden.
It may never get to the point I, personally, hope to see: repurposed ice cream trucks rolling down residential streets, musical jingles blaring, offering free vaccine pokes to excited families hurrying down their front steps. That would be absolutely charming, and could come with free ice cream—but is probably more than our ever-strained health systems could muster. So we’ll have to settle for widespread availability at pharmacies and anywhere else that regularly provides winter flu vaccinations. We should still treat it as something of a miracle.
Monday, May 17, 2021 · 4:46:26 PM +00:00
Biden’s briefing is to include an announcement that the United States will send at least 20 million vaccine doses to other nations by the end of June, an attempt to control pandemic spread elsewhere as vaccine availability in this country stabilizes.
Monday, May 17, 2021 · 5:38:31 PM +00:00
Biden says COVID-19 cases are now down in all 50 states for the first time since the pandemic’s beginning, and that the United States has “secured enough supply to vaccinate all adults and children above the age of 12.”