Biden announces that you no longer need to wear masks outside ... after wearing a mask outside

Before you dunk on him, let me remind you that the only thing standing between us and a Harris administration is the good health of a 78-year-old man.

So if grandpa wants to wear a mask while he strolls from the Oval Office to a podium, I say let him. In fact, let him wear the mask 24/7 to keep his risk at a minimum.

The next time you see him looking like a goon, masked up during a Zoom call, remember that. That thin piece of fabric may be all that’s keeping us from President Kamala.

He did unmask upon reaching the microphone and was asked by reporters why he wore a covering after exiting the White House when the CDC announced just a few hours ago that people don’t need to mask up outdoors when they’re by themselves. (Even unvaccinated people!) His response was something vaguely approximating coherent English:

He meant that … he wanted to do a big dramatic unmasking for the press once he was at the podium, I guess? I don’t know. I don’t speak Biden.

As I write this, contrarian takes are already appearing online from people who intend to keep masking outdoors even though the most hypercautious scientific bureaucracy in the world can’t find good reason to condone that. Tom Scocca of Slate:

For some people, the goal is “Don’t make me wear a mask more than I have to.” For others, it’s “Don’t make me have to start constantly fiddling with my mask.” What seems eminently rational from one side seems foolish or pointless from the other.

I know my own point of view on the mask question. For me, there is nothing liberating about the idea of constantly taking my mask off and putting it on again. I ride the subway standing up, in an out-of-the-way spot, so I don’t have to keep track of how full the train car is getting and who might be elderly or infirm enough to need my seat. I put a mask on when I go outside, and I take it off when I come back inside my own home, and in between I have plenty of other things to think about. The CDC’s multicolored, multisituational guidance charts look like a gigantic hassle to me.

It’s just easier to put it on and forget about it, Scocca argues, instead of maintaining constant situational awareness to decide whether to wear it. Jeva Lange says she’ll keep wearing hers outside — for a while — not for any practical reason but for the psychological benefits both to herself and to others:

While I believe we don’t “need” to wear masks outside, I’m also sympathetic to the trauma we’ve endured as a nation, a city, and as individuals. It’s hard to flip from the mindset of wear a mask constantly or risk killing your grocery store clerk, to don’t bother wearing a mask outside at all. Particularly when you live in a former COVID-19 hotspot, like I do — where less than a year ago, hundreds of people were dying a day just in the surrounding neighborhood — those habits can be especially hard to let go of. Masks represent a semblance of control and comfort that we’d wrestled back from the disease, a way to navigate public spaces again without the fear of strangers that had tainted every interaction early in the pandemic…

Personally, I’ll be continuing to wear my mask for a little longer yet, if only because I care deeply about setting others at ease. I understand that it could take a while for word of the new outdoor mask guidance to reach everyone, and I’m far more concerned about the people I’d make uncomfortable without my mask on than those who are perturbed to see me in one.

Needless to say, there’s another cohort that will go on wearing masks outdoors simply to own the cons or to broadcast their own conscientiousness to passersby. Those who care about others wear masks to limit the risk of infecting them. Those who really care about others — and about Science — wear masks to limit the risk of infecting them even when they’re outdoors and even when the CD-farking-C has said they don’t need to. If mask-wearing is virtuous, imagine how much more virtuous gratuitous mask-wearing is!

I’ll leave you with this prognosis on the pandemic from the head of Brown’s school of public health. With cases finally in decline in Michigan, the picture is starting to look good coast to coast. Even Rochelle Walensky admitted at today’s presser that the feeling of “impending doom” she experienced a few weeks ago has abated. We may have turned the corner on COVID at last.