This editorial was published in the Bloomington Pantagraph.
If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s revision of its recommendations for mask wearing isn’t the checkered flag in our lengthy battle against COVID-19, it’s at least the best news we’ve had in more than a year.
The CDC allows for fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks outdoors, in crowds and in most indoor settings.
The announcement is a reward for months of effort. We shut down our society to the point where we were truly able to determine which jobs we consider essential. Our spirits rose and fell based on the numbers shown in graphs denoting COVID hospitalizations. We gave up weddings, graduations, birthdays, holidays, travel and even our families.
The announcement is a reward to those who have been fully vaccinated, endorsement of the science behind the vaccine, and a nudge to those who have yet to complete their vaccination regimen.
The announcement suddenly makes the arrival of nicer weather something in which we can actually participate.
This doesn’t put us all suddenly in the clear. Businesses can still impose whatever rules they wish. Local, institutional and governmental regulations take precedence over the CDC's guidance.
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The guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters. But it also removes the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.
Since there’s no proof of vaccination available, be aware of business’ preferences and adhere to them. Don’t put an underpaid underling in the position of having to police your mask wearing. That’s become an unfortunate duty for too many people since March 2020.
U.S. virus cases are at their lowest rate since September, deaths are at their lowest point since last April and the test positivity rate is at the lowest point since the pandemic began.
Celebrate, but remain vigilant. If you feel sick, keep your mask on. There’s no harm done then.
We’ll have time in the years to come to analyze how we responded to this emergency. Some people who think they were absolutely right will be shown to be wrong. But the simple fact that we’re still standing shows how a pandemic can be handled.
We’ve learned from our past. Sometimes stubbornly, but learned nonetheless. Students of the future will build on our success. Now we need to do the truly American thing and get the rest of the world in line with our success.