I never thought wearing a mask was all that big a deal as we made our way through the COVID-19 pandemic while waiting for the chance to get a vaccine.
Even after my wife and I had gotten both vaccine shots in late February, we understood we were ahead of the game because of our age and that there were many people who had not yet had the opportunity to be vaccinated. So our masks stayed with us.
For a brief while, it looked like we were finally past the worst of this. I’d pretty much stopped wearing a mask, except at health care facilities and at places like libraries, where there were unvaccinated children.
Two things happened to change that. A new form of the virus — the Delta variant — emerged as a faster-spreading concern, bringing a concerning surge of positive COVID-19 tests. Simultaneously, the stubborn and inexplicable refusal of too many people to get the vaccine grew ever-more entrenched.
The CDC on Tuesday announced revised guidelines for mask-wearing, saying: “To maximize protection from the delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.” The CDC also recommended that everyone in K-12 schools wear masks regardless of vaccination status.
Ever since there’s been a scramble to decide how to move forward. Gov. Tom Wolf responded that he would not require that of Pennsylvania students, even though those under 12 still cannot get vaccinated. Much as I am frustrated by this change in virus momentum, I don’t think that was the right call. The only good thing about that is that school districts get to make their own call. I hope they choose the wise path of masks, at least for children who cannot yet be vaccinated.
I know that even though I’ve been fully vaccinated for months now, I could still spread this Delta variant. And so, reluctantly, masks are back in my car and my pocket for possible use in certain indoor situations.
Let’s face it, though, the CDC likely wouldn’t have had to make this revision were it not for the continued slow rate of vaccinations in parts of our nation and state. (In Snyder County, just barely over 40 percent of those eligible have gotten even one dose.) The vast majority of people getting ill from this variant continue to be unvaccinated.
On Thursday, a newsletter I receive daily from the Poynter Institute, a journalism nonprofit school and research organization, cited a CNN interview with Dr. Murtaza Akhter, an emergency room physician at Florida International University.
Poynter’s Tom Jones reported the doctor spoke of one patient he saw who was in agony, but said she would rather die of COVID-19 than get the vaccine.
Read those words again. She would rather die of COVID than get the vaccine. Incredible!
“To come to the ER looking for help, but refusing to get the most effective treatment possible, and really the only treatment, makes us at a loss for words,” Akhter told CNN. “We have basically a miracle drug, we have something that can prevent the infection and, especially, prevent severe infection and yet people refuse to get it. They come in begging for help, but also refusing the vaccine. It’s utterly ironic. It’s, quite frankly, anger-inducing. And, honestly, it backs up care for everybody else who is trying to do the right thing. It’s very selfish.”
Folks, we have properly honored front-line medical practitioners as heroes throughout this pandemic.
We dishonor them by putting them back in this situation unnecessarily, because of misinformed or politically motivated stubbornness.
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