After more than a year, the folks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have finally liberated fully vaccinated Americans from the requirement to wear masks in public. The CDC scientists and medical experts have determined that, except in a few crowded situations, if you’ve got your shot, you can generally start living like you did before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19.

For a variety of reasons, not everyone is ready to give up their masks. Some are so freaked out by the long months of avoiding a dire sickness that they cannot bring themselves to trust the word of experts. Others have found that the mask has kept them free from colds, flu and other bothersome maladies and may never go fully barefaced again. And probably for more than a few, it is a political decision.

Thanks to former President Donald Trump, FOX News, Tucker Carlson and a host of other pandemic deniers in the right-wing media universe, wearing a mask became synonymous with lying prostrate before Big Government. On the right, rejecting masks was striking a blow for liberty. In reaction to that, people on the liberal side became even stronger advocates of masks – and nowhere more fervently than in Seattle. Mask wearing was striking a blow for sanity.

Now what are we to do? If it is OK to take off our masks, how will we be able to identify the tribe of the maskless person? Is this someone who played by the rules, got vaccinated, voted for President Joe Biden and has a Black Lives Matter sign in the front window at home? Or is this someone who flouted CDC guidelines, refused to get shots, flies a Trump flag and cheered on the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6?

Without masks, we may be forced to trust each other – and that is a social habit we lost long before the pandemic hit our shores.

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