Yesterday was a milestone in our efforts to return to pre-pandemic life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first step in easing mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds, and in most indoor settings.
In certain crowded settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters, the mask requirement will remain in place. As we go forward and the impact of the virus subsides, I expect to see an additional easing of mask requirements.
I was able to fly this past week, just days before the change, and everyone on the plane complied, some reluctantly, with the mask requirement.
But masks alone have never been enough to stem the spread of communicable diseases. One thing the pandemic did provide was additional guidance on cleaning and sanitizing common areas that are used repeatedly. I am hopeful restaurants and stores continue to maintain clean environments, especially bathrooms.
In the 1906 novel, The Jungle, author Upton Sinclair described the filthy conditions that were present at the time in the Chicago Stockyards. At one point in the book describing the main character washing in a stream after months of never bathing. Today, it is hard to imagine bathing in a stream as means to clean ourselves. It was no wonder people died at an early age.
But getting back to the mask thing. It seems we may have inadvertently created a secondary problem. Every public venue has adopted the use of masks. Conversely, every store has stocked up on a wide variety of masks. Masks of all types. Cloth, paper, synthetic, plastic shields, etc.
I personally have a fairly large stockpile of masks. I purchased them to use at showings and open houses, along with a stash of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
What will happen to all those masks? I do not want to throw them away. Maybe they will become a fashion statement?
In the movie, The Princess Bride the main character, Westley, always wore a mask. He was quoted as saying: "It's just that masks are terribly comfortable -- I think everyone will be wearing them in the future."
Was Westley wrong?
At this point, I can only wait and see. Shakespeare once said: “To be, or not to be?” If he were alive today, he might say: “To mask, or not to mask? That is the question.”