My main takeaway from today’s news is that indoor masking is now essentially permanent.
Sure, sure, we could theoretically reach a degree of herd immunity in which there are only a few thousand cases per day nationally, in which case even the Faucis of the world might soften up and dispense with masks altogether. But something like a quarter of all adults say they won’t get vaccinated, and many cautious parents will decline vaccines for their children in the belief that kids are at low risk from COVID in the first place. We may not see fewer than 10,000 cases per day in 2021.
Which means the masks are here to stay, for all intents and purposes.
Here are the guidelines announced this morning by the CDC. If you’re vaccinated you can do anything you like, including dining indoors and visiting bars — a notable change from the caution evinced by the likes of Anthony Fauci over the past several months. But, whether vaxxed or not, if you’re in an indoor space then masks are recommended. In fact, of the 14 activities listed, the masking guidance is different for the vaccinated and unvaccinated in just two. Even the unvaccinated are now encouraged to go maskless when engaging in outdoor activities with only a few other people or solo.
So congrats to everyone on now having CDC approval for behaving the same way you’ve been behaving for a year outdoors.
One scientist welcomed the less restrictive guidelines but complained about the length of the new chart, telling the NYT, “I can’t remember this. I would have to carry around a sheet of paper — a cheat sheet with all these different stipulations… I worry that this is not as helpful as it could be.” Really? I think it’s actually quite simple:
Are you vaccinated? Then feel free to do whatever you want but please wear a mask indoors.
Are you unvaccinated? You’re not following the chart anyway so never mind.
Note too the fine print at the very bottom about general precautions that the vaccinated and unvaccinated should take. Didn’t the CDC declare not long ago that the virus isn’t being transmitted via contaminated surfaces? What’s with the hand-washing recommendation for the unvaccinated then?
The good news is that we’ve been begging the experts to do more with behavioral recommendations to encourage vaccination and they’ve done that here, sort of. Giving people who’ve had their shots the green light to get fully back to normal while cautioning the unvaccinated against it is as clear an example as we could want from the feds. The bad news is that recommending masks for the vaccinated undercuts that “return to normalcy” message. Even some doctors are underwhelmed by the degree of caution displayed:
Why are the vaccinated still being urged to wear masks at a crowded *outdoor* event like a baseball game, asks Philip Klein? Good question. I have no answer.
But maybe Rochelle Walensky does:
CDC's Dr. Walensky says guidance for fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors/mass gatherings is largely to protect unvaccinated from other unvaccinated folks who may be there (given difficulty distinguishing vaccinated people from those that aren't)
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) April 27, 2021
In other words, your reward for doing the responsible thing and getting your shots is … to carry on as usual and set an example for others even though you’re not personally at risk. The punchline is that the unvaccinated care less about the risk from COVID than the vaccinated do, so we’re going to end up with an absurd situation in which people who’ve been immunized are sitting in restaurants with their masks on to set an example while the unimmunized people at the table next to them are barefaced, having the time of their lives.
I’ll leave you with this guy, our new head of HHS, who’s under the impression somehow that the message from our federal science bureaucracy is “clear.” My dude, the messaging on the pandemic hasn’t been clear since the moment COVID arrived 14 months ago. We were gifted with a new example of just how unclear it is literally just a few hours ago. I have no doubt that, despite today’s guidance encouraging the vaccinated to dine indoors, Fauci will hedge in his next interview when asked if that’s risky. There’s no such thing as a “clear message” from our government on the coronavirus. But admittedly, “get vaccinated” is about as clear — and correct — as it can get.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on what to expect from new CDC mask guidance today:
“You’re vaccinated, guess what? You get to return to a more normal lifestyle. If you’re not vaccinated, you’re still a danger. You’re still in danger, as well.” pic.twitter.com/hO2LK1sGjO
— The Recount (@therecount) April 27, 2021