Less than a month after King County officials said vaccinated residents could safely go without wearing a mask in public indoors and the state lifted most of its pandemic restrictions, we are all once again being asked to mask up.
That feeling welling up inside you is probably a mix of frustration and exhaustion. Haven’t we done enough? Weren’t we responsible? Didn’t we keep our distance, wear a mask and get vaccinated?
In short: How is this — insert your favorite alliterative expletive here — fair?
Once that’s out of your system, we all know the answer. It isn’t fair, but neither is this virus. It takes the lives of the young and old alike and can send vaccinated people to the ICU right alongside those who call it a “scam-demic.”
Many of us thought we were done with this virus, or at least behaved as if we did, but the virus isn’t done with us. As the highly contagious delta variant spreads and infections spike throughout the country, we must go back to taking necessary precautions.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed its May decision regarding mask use by the vaccinated. New evidence suggests that those who are immunized may be as contagious as someone who is unvaccinated and could put vulnerable populations at risk. Still, they remain unlikely to become severely ill from a breakthrough infection by the delta variant.
The CDC now recommends that vaccinated people wear masks indoors in public if they live in high-transmission areas or in households with young children or people who are immunocompromised. The agency also urged masking for all teachers, staff and students in schools.
The new guidance comes on the heels of similar recommendations by health officials in King, Snohomish, Pierce, Kitsap, Clallam, San Juan, Grays Harbor and Jefferson counties.
“Universal masking in public indoor spaces provides a more reliable way to ensure everyone is safe,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer at Public Health — Seattle & King County, at a press briefing last week.
Mask use is important, but no one will be secure until the virus is under control. That won’t happen as long as millions of people who can get vaccinated refuse to do so.
Early data show that concerns over the delta variant may be restarting the previously stalled vaccination rate. On Monday, the seven-day average for new vaccinations was up 24% over a week ago, according to a tweet by Cyrus Shahpar, White House COVID-19 data director, who also noted promising vaccine numbers over the weekend.
That silver lining is tarnished by maddening numbers in a recent Associated Press poll, which found that most unvaccinated Americans don’t want to get immunized, with 35% of respondents saying they “probably will not” and 45% saying they “definitely will not.”
Every transmission gives the virus an opportunity to mutate and potentially make current vaccines obsolete. It’s vital that the vaccine recalcitrant among us do the right thing.
In the meantime, the rest of us must keep our frustration in check and recognize that being asked to wear a mask to keep others safe is fair enough.