Friday, May 21, 2021

Face Masks and COVID Infection

 Now that the CDC has offered new face mask guidelines — that fully vaccinated people basically don’t need to wear a mask outdoors or indoors — many people are either celebrating or are expressing confusion. I’m doing neither. Since I’m a scientist by training with a background in epidemiology, I have decided that, though I’m fully vaccinated, I have no intention of going indoors to a restaurant, grocery, theater or other public places without a mask. That’s because we still don’t know how the vaccines perform in the face of the myriad COVID variants, including the new one festering in India, let alone those in Brazil and South Africa, to name a few. In addition, the vaccines are not 100% in preventing infection, though they are highly effective in significantly reducing the risk of getting seriously ill, being hospitalized or dying from COVID. For myself, I’ve decided to wear a 4-ply mask on all means of transportation — bus, ferry, train, plane — and also indoors, whether I’m shopping or buying takeout food. After all, there’s no way for me to know who is or isn’t vaccinated. (But a substantial segment of the population — some 20% or more — say they will not get vaccinated. In addition, in many states, such as Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, under 30% of the population has been vaccinated so far, substantially lower numbers than in the Northeast.) I do not intent on eating indoors nor visiting a wine bar because that means not wearing a mask in a closed environment with other maskless people who may or may not be vaccinated. Yes, I know this probably sounds either paranoiac or overly vigilant. I’m fine with that.