I am glad to learn that I no longer need to wear a mask in most public settings. (I will wear one to my dentist appointment today). This is great news–a sign that we are finally turning a corner. Pennsylvania has adopted the CDC guidelines.
But let’s not pretend that this global pandemic is over.
Here is Russell Berman at The Atlantic::
The president and the CDC framed the change as one more incentive for people to become vaccinated by presenting the vaccine-hesitant with a choice—get your shot if you don’t like wearing a mask. But the guideline change was also at least a tacit acknowledgment that not everyone is going to become vaccinated and that at some point the country needs to move closer to normalcy anyway. With cases dropping across the country, the CDC was under increasing pressure to loosen its position toward masks.
Biden has promised, over and over again, to remove politics from the decision making around the pandemic, to “follow the science.” But the political implications of today’s announcement were inescapable. The president needs the pandemic to end, but he also needs the public to see that his policies and leadership have helped make it end. So far, his success has been measured mostly in numbers—in the falling infection rate and in the hundreds of millions of vaccinations, which have exceeded the administration’s initial stated goals. Liberating the people from their face coverings is a far more visible step—one that Americans will feel, physically as well as symbolically, in their daily lives. It will also ease one of the most polarizing issues of the pandemic. The harsh political reality is that people might be more willing to credit Biden for ending the mask mandates than they are for keeping them healthy.
Undoubtedly, a few more twists and turns in the pandemic lie ahead, and the administration’s shift might yet prove to be premature. The ongoing global spread of the virus could spawn new variants that evade the vaccines, and the duration of the protection offered by the shots is still unknown. Masks will be a part of American life in certain settings for months to come, if not longer. For more than a year, however, these flimsy garments have come to symbolize the intrusion, and the isolation, wrought by COVID-19. When the pandemic is finally indeed over, the country might look back at the unexpected announcement of May 13 as a moment of demarcation—even as something of an end.
Read the entire piece here.