That’s always been the message from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when it comes to stopping COVID-19.
When the CDC announced recently that some people would no longer have to wear face masks, it came with a list of exceptions, including:
• You have to be fully vaccinated.
• The county you live in can continue to declare a mask mandate.
• Masks are still required on public transportation, including airplanes, even if you have been vaccinated.
• Masks are still mandatory in hospitals, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and other “congregate care” settings.
The complicated nature of COVID-19 public health directives can be excused in the sense that we’re still learning about the disease and what it takes to stop its transmission. However, politics, miscommunication and misinformation have often gotten in the way of a clear public understanding.
Some people on both the political right and left have been guilty of playing politics with COVID. Some falsely spread word that the disease isn’t real or that the vaccine is dangerous. On the other side, some folks want to shame anyone who doesn’t wear a mask, even if the CDC says it’s OK.
In Indiana, Marion County initially kept its mask mandate after the CDC said vaccinated folks, generally, don’t have to wear one. The county, however, announced Wednesday that it would drop the mandate June 7.
The Marion County delay was probably wise, given the dense population in the Indianapolis area, to give city officials time to scrutinize the new CDC guidelines and the statistics behind them.
Even public health officials, after all, haven’t been immune to the consternation over COVID directives felt by many Hoosiers.
Stephenie Grimes, the Madison County Health Department’s chief administrator, found out about the CDC’s updated mask guidance through social media. The CDC had chosen to release the new declaration itself rather than informing local health departments first.
Grimes noted that the CDC guidelines don’t necessarily reflect what’s happening on the ground locally. Businesses, for instance, can still require people to wear masks.
Many businesses owners might feel damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
Those that don’t require masks can face blowback from employees and customers who remain deeply concerned about the virus. Those that do require masks can face criticism from Hoosiers who are beyond weary of COVID restrictions and long for the good old days of 2019.
Of course, if people really want to get back to 2019, they should bare a shoulder for the vaccine. Want to be free of masks? Get the shot.
While COVID transmission in Indiana is trending in the right direction — down — most days still see Hoosier lives taken and hundreds of new cases reported.
It’s paramount that folks all across Indiana continue to seek accurate information — from the CDC and local and state health departments — about COVID, the vaccine and up-to-date public health directives.
Hoosiers must be determined to fight through the complications for one simple purpose — keeping the deadly disease at bay.
The Herald Bulletin, Anderson