A day after the top US health department relaxed Covid-19 mask limits, many residents were already seen wandering around Washington, DC, sporting face masks.
Among them was Chloe, a student who seemed to be completely vaccinated but was also wearing her black face mask.
“I believe the announcement… came as a surprise to many people. It came as such a surprise to me “The student, who did not want to be identified by her last name, told AFP on Friday.
Chloe, 20, described the CDC announcement as “hopeful” but she plans to keep wearing her mask for the time being.
“If I see more people not wearing masks, it’ll make me feel comfortable not wearing masks,” she said. “And then just seeing the number of people who are vaccinated in the US will definitely help. If that number goes up, I might feel more comfortable taking it off.”
But “it’s really important to recognize that the pandemic’s still going on.”
Currently, only 36 percent of people are fully vaccinated in the United States, where the pandemic has killed more than 580,000.
“Yesterday, I was not really into the idea” of going maskless, said Lauren, who wore a white cloth face mask. “Even though I’m vaccinated, what if there’s some slight chance that I’m around somebody who’s sick? A non-vaccinated person?”
The 36-year-old consultant, who also chose to only give her first name, told AFP she plans to keep her mask handy when she’s out and decide whether to put it on based on a “day-to-day, even hour-to-hour feeling.”
“It has kind of become a part of our face. I feel kind of bare without it,” Lauren said, adding her mask sometimes can feel like a “security blanket.”
Health experts say it’s normal to feel anxious about returning to normal life, given how hard the last year has been.
Yet, as Dr. Amesh Adalja warns, there is such a thing as being too cautious: “The science is showing that if you’re fully vaccinated, the virus is going to treat you very differently, so you can act very differently.”
According to Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, part of the issue is that the CDC was overly conservative during the pandemic and has now surprised people with what seems to be a more proactive move.
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared on Thursday that people who have been completely vaccinated against Covid-19 no longer needed to wear masks indoors, President Joe Biden applauded the announcement, calling it a “great day” for the world worst affected by the pandemic.
Comedic takes flooded Twitter, but their humor belied users’ deeper-seated anxiety over the issue.
“We don’t have to wear masks anymore if we’re vaccinated but what if I’m mistaken for a republican,” another woman wrote, referring to political divisions over masks.
“This is a just a note to say that masks are like weighted face blankets and I’m keeping mine forever,” tweeted author Glennon Doyle.
According to Adalja, “people didn’t develop the ability to risk calculate.”
“There just was a lot of precautionary principles that got carried away to a point that I think it’s going to be hard for people who totally embraced all of that to jettison it,” he told AFP.
But “what value are you deriving from the vaccine if you’re not actually living your life?”
Lauren ultimately agrees: “I’m really desperate to see people’s faces again,” she said. “I want to be able to smile at people.”