After the CDC on May 13 abruptly updated their guidance on whom should don a mask and when, followed a day later by Gov. Ralph Northam’s corresponding action to allow Virginians to shed their face coverings — if they are fully vaccinated — in most situations, people no doubt began to breathe easier.
Many probably felt the urge to ceremonially burn their mask as a way to mark the occasion following such a long period of strict safety protocols.
Some, however, may have been perplexed when they ventured out the day after mask restrictions were eased, only to find so many faces still veiled, even if they didn’t have to be.
The virus is still in our community. As we enter into what we all hope are the waning days of this pandemic, it’s worth taking note of how we got to this point. As of this writing, the CDC reports that 584,337 lives have been lost in the United States alone. And despite the promising downward trend in new cases and deaths.
There are those who, for myriad reasons, are wary of shedding these safety protocols so readily, as if they were a light switch to be flipped on or off. What informs one’s decision-making process can’t be seen as easily as the mask on their face.
Maybe they live with someone who can’t be vaccinated because they historically react adversely to vaccines. Maybe they have a child with an autoimmune disease and who is too young to be vaccinated; or maybe for religious reasons they can’t be vaccinated.
The point is, don’t scoff, or roll your eyes, or otherwise shame a person you encounter in public because they are still wearing a mask.
They survived this horrible epoch, from which we are only just emerging, probably in no small part because of their diligence. But perhaps they lost a family member to COVID-19; or a friend, or a colleague.
“I think what you’ll find is that people aren’t going to take those [safety measures] and just ditch them,” said Tony Howard, president and CEO of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, told reporter Nathaniel Cline this week.
It’s incumbent upon us all to recognize that this indiscriminate virus is still finding a way to maintain a toehold, even if it is losing ground by the day.
A lack of empathy in our fellow neighbors is no less than a failure of imagination.
And that inadequacy is how we lose.