Thoughts & Essays

Re: The CDC’s new mask guidance

So the CDC announced its new mask guidance yesterday and it’s not good, people. In case you’ve been (wisely) living under a rock for the last 24 hours, here’s the news:

People who are fully vaccinated (two weeks after your second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after one shot of the J&J vaccine) can stop wearing a mask or physically distancing outdoors or indoors, unless otherwise directed by “federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance”. You also don’t need to test before or after traveling or self-quarantine after traveling, or quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure unless you’re showing symptoms.

People who are not fully vaccinated or who can’t be vaccinated should continue to mask, physically distance, and etc.

Except, um. How are we supposed to tell who’s been fully vaccinated and who hasn’t? Apparently we’re on the honor system here. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re dealing with a sizable segment of the population who are fully willing and able to abuse the honor system by flat lying about their vaccination status.

Honestly, I am baffled with this new mask guidance. I cannot get my head around what this is supposed to accomplish.

I’ve heard a few people argue that the new guidance will encourage people to get vaccinated so that they can stop wearing masks, but no one has mounted a realistic argument or explanation for why people won’t just lie about it.

We’re dealing with, eh, about three different groups of people here: Those who will not vaccinate (ratlickers, anti-vaxxers, MAGA cultists), those who cannot vaccinate (kids under 12, the medically fragile, those with vaccine allergies), and the “vaccine hesitant” (those who are theoretically willing to vaccinate, just not right this second for, y’know, reasons).

It’s reasonable to think that this new guidance might be enough to convince some of the vaccine hesitant folks to go get their shots. Like, maybe. But there’s been a lot of talk about how getting the shots kinda sucks, and it can be inconvenient and difficult to get a shot, and it’s just really super easy to lie about it. People lie about dumb, easy things they should have taken care of already all the time. They do it constantly. Why wouldn’t they do it here?

Those in the ratlicker camp will obviously lie about it. They’ll lie about it right into your face and they won’t even give you the respect of attempting to lie convincingly. They’ll be smug and transparent about it, because they’d love to be confronted on their lie so they can continue to lie badly right into your face with a shit-eating grin on theirs. I mean, that’s just how it’s going to work.

And then there are those who can’t get vaccinated. Kids under 12 can’t get vaccinated yet. Some people have allergies to the vaccines and will never be able to get vaccinated. Some people are immunocompromised or otherwise medically fragile and might get their shots, but won’t have a good immune response from them and so won’t be fully vaccinated. What happens to all these people? Do they lock themselves away forever, banished from society because of the anti-vaxxers and folks who haven’t bothered with shots yet?

In theory, if everyone who can get vaccinated did get vaccinated, those folks would be safe (or at least, much, much safer) due to herd immunity. But that is clearly not going to happen. Look at the way America is working right now. That is clearly, obviously not going to happen. Anyone who tells you differently is delusional.

So now we’re dealing with a largely unvaccinated population (about 35% or so of us are fully vaccinated right now) who’ve basically just been given the all-clear to go back to normal in the hopes that people will make responsible decisions, after we’ve spent an entire year proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you cannot trust the population at large to make responsible decisions.

Like. What? How on Earth does this make sense? How is this safe?

Very few places are going to be requiring vaccinations or checking to make sure you’re vaccinated before letting you in to do your thing. Grocery stores and restaurants are not going to be checking for your vaccination card before letting you in the doors. Maybe some colleges and workplaces might require vaccinations and enforce unvaccinated restrictions. Maybe some federal, state, or local government locations. But that’s it. For the rest of America, you’re on the honor system, and you’re surrounded by people with no honor.

Also, I have to tell you this: the CDC has been terrible at dealing with this pandemic the whole time. They were late to tell us to mask up. They were waaaay late to acknowledge that COVID-19 is airborne. They’ve been intensely politicized, are still full of Trumpy staffers, lost a bunch of non-Trumpy staffers, and have been crapping out bad advice since like January 2020. This makes me not trust the CDC on much of anything.

Non-CDC experts all seem pretty not okay with this new guidance, and that makes me feel like I shouldn’t be okay with it, either.

It doesn’t help that the Biden administration immediately went all in on the guidance, flinging off their masks and dancing gleefully around in front of cameras touting how awesome it is to be maskless. Yes. Thank you. That makes this advice seem much less politicized. Very reassuring, Joe.

Many schools and businesses and whatnot have failed to do much of anything beyond security theater to make their locations safer. Have they updated their HVAC systems, which is one of the main things we need to do to make indoor locations safer? They have not. Will they? Why would they bother now? It’s expensive and difficult, and the Biden administration just gave them a tacit go-ahead to ignore the whole thing.

Has the CDC or the Biden administration done anything to address the fact that we will now have a large unvaccinated population wandering around turning themselves into walking petri dishes to incubate new and more dangerous variants of COVID-19? They certainly don’t appear to be doing anything about that.

The only way the new mask guidance from the CDC and the Biden administration makes sense is if they’re doing it strictly to get the economy moving again. It has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with rich people making money. And that’s it. Your safety is now, and has always been, drastically less important than rich bastards getting richer.