The CDC guidelines and you
The CDC announced that YOU NO LONGER NEED TO WEAR A MASK… if vaccinated. Yep they put the important part in nice tiny font and after a year of people actively putting others at risk because they would rather throw a fit about wearing a mask than help stop the spread. Roughly just over a third (~36% as of this writing) of the population has been vaccinated. What’s troubling is the large number of epidemiologists and scientists in general were shocked by the CDC announcement. So what now?
When the pandemic hit an incredibly loud section of the population decried mask wearing as anti-scientific. Ironically, in medicine we wear masks regularly. They prevent the spread of disease and definitely don’t cause a drop in blood oxygenation. Can you imagine if that were true? Surgeons dropping left and right mid surgery, there would be chaos and surgery would be incredibly dangerous. The point being that there has been a lot of senseless and unnecessary death, not because of ignorance, at least not completely, but because of malice.
A student of history would know that the COVID pandemic followed eerily close to the flu of 1918. Anti-mask wearing groups fighting with people trying to prevent the spread of the disease were using the same propaganda that anti-mask groups were using today. Especially the minimalization of the deaths and the downplaying of the debilitating and possibly lifelong effects of infection.
Thankfully the vaccine has proven to be effective, safe, and to this point protective against the variants. The question is how long will that hold. With every infection, the COVID virus has a chance to mutate and every time that happens is another possibility that the vaccine will not protect against a new strain. In short, this is a war against nature and in the unseen arms race we’re currently ahead, but just barely (more).
That’s why the CDC lifting mask guidelines is so confusing. Between the low number of people vaccinated, the fact that we’ve only barely allowed people ages 13+ to get vaccinated, the issue with immunocompromised people not being vaccinated, there are a lot of vulnerable people at risk. We’re told to trust that anti-mask and anti-vax groups will be honest about not being vaccinated when we’ve already seen numerous examples of anti-vax/anti-mask groups lying about being disabled to get out of wearing a mask or getting vaccinated.
The number of people being put at risk by lifting these guidelines is incredibly high and has the potential to not only extend the amount of suffering, but expand it. We’re left to trust in others when it’s been shown that we cannot. More importantly, there are several examples of epidemiologists that were shocked by this announcement (here)(and here).
Frankly we’re not ready, there are still a lot of things that need to happen before we could even think about this. The CDC’s abrupt and significant change, I believe, will cause a significant upsurge in infections and possibly cause a mutation that can subvert the vaccine. I don’t want to be right and I don’t think I’m smarter than the people who made the decision, but I also believe that science is self correcting, not perfect. That the majority of scientists should be listened to until better evidence comes along to suggest something different. In this case the majority are saying that this is not a good choice.
Only time will tell and certainly we will be a cautionary tale for future generations. Sadly we did not learn from the flu of 1918 so I don’t suspect that when the next pandemic occurs, and it’s almost certainly a question of when, humanity will not have learned from the past. Sadly humanity has a short memory and are poor at estimating risk. Because of this pandemic, we’ve created a whole generation of people with possibly lifelong disabilities. As someone who is disabled and was well before the pandemic, death shouldn’t be the only metric when it comes to COVID.
Somewhere along the line we decided to attempt to live with COVID instead of eliminate it. I think that is a choice that will haunt generations to come. Then again I cannot predict the future. I don’t know if the CDC’s choice will make things worse, I can only guess based on what others who are knowledgeable in the field are saying. I hope I’m wrong, I really do. Until we know the outcome of this decision I will continue to worry about the people who are not vaccinated, the people who cannot be vaccinated, and the people who don’t care about spreading COVID and are callous to the incredibly high death count from COVID.
I’m not the CDC, I’m not even an epidemiologist, but I’m smart enough to know that when the majority of epidemiologists are nervous about this change that I should be as well. As usual I will continue to wear my mask to make sure that others around me are safe. The hospital is still mandating masks and I agree with that choice, I work with a very vulnerable population and I’m not certain that all of them are eligible for vaccination. From the beginning of the pandemic one thing has remained true, the easiest way to stop this is by all of us doing our part. The cautious approach should be the default here. I will continue to do mine until there is enough evidence to support a change.
Until then, the mask stays on. Sorry CDC, this was the wrong call.