Covid cases are rising across the country, across my state, and across my county. We have had a slight uptick in hospitalizations since our low back in late March, when we had zero Covid cases in the hospital. I have not had a Covid patient in my ICU for weeks and weeks. Still, cases are rising everywhere, and so I have started wearing a mask whenever I am indoors in public.
Full disclosure: back when Covid was rampant, and our hospital was busting at the seams with Covid patients, I was in full support of everyone having to wear a mask. I believe it definitely helped reduce transmission of the virus, and this saved lives, especially when we did not have a vaccine, and most of our population was still susceptible to the virus.
We are in a different situation now. Vaccines are widely available, and many people have already been vaccinated and boosted (myself included). Most of the adult population has either been vaccinated or have had Covid or both. While cases are rising – and hence my donning a mask every time I go inside – hospitalizations are not rising to the same degree. Things are different now.
What I like most about our current situation is the “live and let live” approach. I recently went shopping, and I was probably one of a small minority who wore a mask. Yet, no one gave me a hard time. No one yelled at me for wearing a mask. No one gave me a dirty look. Those who had masks went on their merry ways, and those without masks did the same.
The same went with me: I did not take anyone who did not wear a mask to task. I didn’t look at them with disdain or think they were “ignorant.” Every person can gauge their own personal risk tolerance, and every person was tolerant of another’s choice with respect to masking in public.
For me, with cases rising in the community, I wear a mask because I don’t want to get sick – with Covid or anything else. If I get sick and can’t work, it puts strain on my colleagues who have to cover my shifts while I’m out. It causes a huge disruption to many people’s lives, and so to protect myself and others, I endure the inconvenience – especially in the hot weather – of wearing a mask.
Others do not have the same worries and constraints as I do, and that’s fine. We are all living and let living, and this is very refreshing. Perhaps the lack of contention over masks is a result of the fact that indoor mask mandates are now a thing of the past. Perhaps the mask mandate – of which I was indeed very supportive – did more harm than good from an overall societal perspective.
I am willing to concede that I may have been wrong about the importance of mask mandates, not from a viral transmission perspective, but from a social cohesion perspective. As we study the aftermath of this pandemic, hopefully we will learn important lessons on how we can do better the next time a global pandemic reaches our shores.
It is sad that our country has been so divided over the issue of whether to wear a mask in public. Indeed, back in 2018 when I was in Paris on vacation, I would look at people wearing a mask in large crowds with derision. Fast forward to today, if I ever go back to Paris on vacation, I will be one of those people wearing a mask, too. My how times have changed.
The most important thing is that we tolerate each other’s decisions. Whether it is on a plane (where I also still wear a mask), in the mall, in the park, or anywhere else, we should respect each other’s choice to mask or not wear a mask. The “peace of the mask” has been most refreshing.