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Virus Without Borders: Chapter 88

To Mask or Not to Mask—That is My Question



I'll come out and say it: All of this is truly exhausting, and it very much sucks.


        -Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic,


Happy Valentine's Day. I have a gift for you: total confusion. I have spent nearly three blissful mask-free days in upstate New York, attended an in-person book club in front of a cozy fire, dressed and undressed mask free at a locker room at the gym, had a long conversation, albeit distanced, with the lifeguard, the first in months and months and months, and returned to a sensational Mexican restaurant in town that stayed alive doing take-out, for which we are grateful. To treat ourselves to delicious food during the worst of the restrictions, well, it was solace. Today, I ventured onto the SUNY campus where masks are still mandated in all indoor spaces. Oddly, all the students strolling outside on an unseasonably warm day were still wearing their masks. I felt unprotected, perhaps a bit careless. Maybe the lifting of restrictions is premature?  What if next week, say, someone arrives at JFK from somewhere or other, and this unsuspecting traveler, who tested negative before boarding the plane, is incubating a new variant which no one, not even the most canny scientists, have detected or sequenced, and what if that innocent traveler attends a celebration somewhere or other, super-spreads this new variant, and we all get very sick? All those days and weeks and months of vigilance, the boosters, the masks, the protocols,  all for naught. Why throw it all away prematurely? Is it premature? Is the decision to relax mask mandate political, Blue Governors versus Red Governors? As per my Valentine's Day gift: total confusion.
Some pundit said this week that our brains are not wired to navigate conflicting messages that may not may not endanger us. We shut down, space out, run in circles like rats in a cage, then slide onto the track that feels most comfortable to us. Like everyone else, I have some friends and family that gather and travel, some friends and family that do not, and won't for a long time. What we do is often not consistent with the dangers or the science, we rationalize and justify the risks we take, or become overly cautious, or opt out of a decision and say, "what the heck." For me, relinquishing a mask feels both freeing and scary, depending on the day and the circumstance. The pandemic will segue into an endemic illness eventually, I say to myself. In the meantime, best to stay calm and carry on.



#maskmandates #getvaccinated #staysafe 

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