Meet the ever-maskers
New York State will adopt C.D.C. guidelines for the vaccinated on Wednesday. “No masks, no social distancing,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
But some fully vaccinated people, in New York and elsewhere, are keeping their masks on for at least few more months. They are anxious about other people — especially as vaccine hesitancy remains high — and are trying to parse murky information about new coronavirus variants.
“I’m in no hurry; why should I be in a hurry?” said George Jones, 82, a retired mail carrier who lives in Harlem. “Being around is more important. That’s what counts. I’m an old man — I’d like to be around as long as I can.”
The U.S. is teetering at an inflection point. Cities have started to reopen, even though the country is nowhere near herd immunity. Only about 37 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, and providers are administering about 44 percent fewer vaccines a day on average than they were on April 13, the peak.
“It might have been better to have kept up indoor mask mandates to help suppress the virus for maybe as little as a few more weeks,” the sociologist Zeynep Tufekci argues in a guest essay for The Times’s Opinion section.
“Telling everyone to wear masks indoors has a sociological effect,” she continues. “Grocery stores and workplaces cannot enforce mask wearing by vaccination status. We do not have vaccine passports in the U.S., and I do not see how we could. Places can either say ‘wear a mask regardless’ or just accept that people who don’t want to wear one will not.”
The pandemic splits in two
A few months ago, while outbreaks were exploding across major Western cities, India’s leaders boasted that they had triumphed over the coronavirus.
Now, that pattern has flipped.
As vaccination campaigns continue around the world, the pandemic has become a global tale of haves and have-nots. Many wealthy countries are making significant progress, thanks to the vaccines they’ve obtained. But outbreaks are devastating developing nations where there aren’t enough doses available.
It has become, in other words, a K-shaped pandemic. And the fault lines keep widening as vaccines flow toward rich countries.
Vaccines are not the only defense — governments across Asia and Oceania have kept the virus at bay despite low vaccination rates. Restrictions were also critical in reining in infections. But this year, no factor has had a greater impact on a nation’s path out of the pandemic than the number of vaccines it can buy.
What else we’re following
What you’re doing
People keep saying: “Let’s get back to the norm. Now that you have been vaccinated you can pretty much go without your mask.” The problem is we have no idea who has been vaccinated and who is just out without a mask because they, as I have heard from many, “don’t believe in all this.” It would be wonderful if there was a way to require people to wear a pin that says “vaccinated” in order not to wear a mask. Then those of us with health issues may feel safe again. — Lana Dearborn, Alabama
Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.