Excuse Me If I’m Not Ready to Unmask Yet

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The speed and competency of the vaccine rollout has been nothing short of a miracle, the public-health achievement of the young century; we should all feel infinitely grateful to the research scientists, health-care workers, and public-health officials who have made it feasible to vaccinate millions of people in just a few months. But excuse me if I, like many of the people I see around me, am not yet quite ready to expose my lower face... theatlantic.com, Excuse Me If I’m Not Ready to Unmask, Dana Stevens, 2021

Early on in the pandemic, I made a vow with my family that we would set a high standard for COVID-19 avoidance. Not only were we not getting this virus ourselves, if we could help it, but we were taking no chances of inadvertently spreading it to anyone else, even if that did make for a long and lonely year without indoor gatherings and travel to see family and friends. I didn’t want to go to my grave thinking that I was a link in some chain of human interaction leading to someone else’s serious illness or death.

I still don’t. The vaccines are remarkably effective, but not 100 percent. Breakthrough infections among vaccinated people have occurred and the science about whether and how the virus can be transmitted by the vaccinated to the unvaccinated is not yet certain. Putting aside the hard science for a moment, wearing a mask in public spaces—especially indoors, where transmission is more likely—serves a broader social purpose: It says to those around us that, whatever our vaccine status, we value community safety.


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