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The unvaccinated vs. vaccinated mask debate

The unvaccinated vs. vaccinated mask debate

The unvaccinated vs. vaccinated mask debate
June 10
13:00 2021

In the United States, normal life appears to be resuming after its abrupt halt last March. Restaurants are opening at full capacity. Once vacant vacation spots are now blooming with tourists.  Concerts are being rescheduled and resumed after thousands were canceled.

It appears to the naked eye that the post-pandemic years are finally upon us, after nearly a year and a half of the wrath of COVID-19. Most signs suggest a return to a life we once thought long gone, without fear of catching the virus.

Not all signs point towards a fully reopened country. There is one simple covering that has been deeply politically polarized and caused an abundance of heated physical debate may keep citizens enduring the effects of the pandemic, and ones in the future: masks.

New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines suggest that people who are fully vaccinated can resume activities without wearing masks or socially distancing — a landmark in the fight against the pandemic. However, 63 percent of fully vaccinated Americans still wear masks when leaving the house. This opens a new inquiry: whether everyone will feel fully protected without wearing a face covering.

It’s another debate over whether most mask-wearing citizens will ever completely ditch them in high foot-traffic places like grocery stores, fast food restaurants and department stores. 15 states still have a mask mandate in most indoor public places as of June 7, according to collective data from AARP Healthy Living.

Although most states have implemented some sort of plan to return to a fully reopened economy, many citizens still aren’t willing to go maskless. Unsurprisingly, people who have received their vaccine are more hesitant to ditch the face-covering than people who haven’t, a nationally representative survey from Consumer Reports indicates.

The partisan divide between vaccine hesitancy and maskless hesitancy is uncannily ironic. Many citizens who don’t regularly wear, or have never worn masks are less likely to get vaccinated because of a distrust of science and the media. On the contrary, people who trust science and the news are more likely to become vaccinated. This group is also less likely to drop the masks until they feel it’s safe to do so.

In July 2020, over half of the states had placed mask mandates in public indoor spaces. In Texas, that mandate went into effect that April. For 14 months Texas residents had been living with mask requirements inside shops, schools and other businesses.

In the beginning, it was difficult to fathom wearing something that hides half of a human face for virus protection. Now for many, it’s hard to imagine life without them. Sometimes it was easier to have conversations with half of your face hidden. It was almost comforting to be able to hide conflicting emotions or even pulling the mask up to shield the insecurity of not looking my best.
I basked in the ability to have the convenience of being silent without showing a tightly lipped mouth, unsure of what to say next. It’s quite distressing to actually have to contemplate what the other half of my face looks like when I’m talking to people. The discomfort in social interaction will take some adjusting after being shut off from the world for so long.

It is difficult to let go of a piece of the new world that has been cherished, despised, debated, fought over with insistent Karens and instituted as a part of daily life. Those who have never worn masks do not have to alter their behavior compared to people who have complied with mask mandates.

There was virtually — pun intended — no flu season this year because of masks. Only around 2,100 influenza cases were recorded this year, according to the CDC Influenza Tracker. It’s a total game-changer when we go to school and show up with a mask because we’re sick, rather than attending with the sickness unprotected. It’s hard to believe that we just used to attend class, aware of being contagious.

Dr. Antony Fauci, leading infectious disease expert in the U.S., recommends that masks be worn until the population reaches herd immunity, which is likely to be achieved in February 2022.
The future is befuddling, but one aspect is for certain: masks aren’t going away anytime soon.

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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McKensi Bryce

McKensi Bryce

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