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Masks Again?

Susan Estrich on

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued more guidance, this time to put our masks back on indoors with potentially unvaccinated people because you might transmit the virus to them. And those unvaccinated people are the ones crowding the hospitals. They are a danger to themselves and others.

A very big part of me would like to say "the heck with them" and put the masks away. I'm pissed off, as are many others, that we are faced with a predicament we could have avoided -- or they could have, the folks who are resisting vaccines that took miracles to create.

Since the beginning of the vaccination campaign, public health officials have focused on communities of racial minorities. If you entered a low-income ZIP code, you got ahead of me in line. The early vaccination sites were chosen to be accessible by train or bus. The mobile sites went to low-income neighborhoods.

It was not a surprise that they would find resistance there. And they have. In my neighborhood, the vaccination rate is somewhere in the 90%-plus range. The pharmacies all take walk-ins. You don't need to be a citizen. It costs nothing. For a while, there was a lottery and prizes. These days, public health workers are going door to door.

It could not be easier. And still, they don't come. This is not the way the story is supposed to end.

Nationally, the polls have shown that anti-vaccine sentiment was strongest among white Republicans and Black men. Republicans have been cooking their own goose since this began. In recent days, more Republicans have stepped up, including Sarah Sanders, former President Donald Trump's press secretary, who urged his followers to get one of the "Trump vaccines." Imagine he had talked about the vaccines in the post-election days, instead of himself and his trumped-up claims.

If some knucklehead wants to make a decision based on what a doctor whose name they can't remember had to say on television, I would like to say it's their problem, at least when the issue is whether I have to wear a mask or not. I'm that pissed.

Because that is the issue, to be clear. Read the fine print and the CDC isn't really changing things. The three vaccines still provide protection against hospitalizations and deaths.

The sick and dying, the people beginning to crowd hospitals, are unvaccinated people. In Los Angeles county, upwards of 90% of those in the hospital are unvaccinated. In other coverage, I have seen numbers as high as 97%. No change there.

What has changed is the fact that vaccinated people can transmit the virus to unvaccinated people without knowing it.

 

Months ago, when the CDC told us we could take our masks off, it was because they determined that vaccinated people did not have a high enough viral load to transmit the disease. So, we posed no risk to the unvaccinated. The delta variant is different. When they say it is highly contagious, that means that the viral loads carried by vaccinated people with no symptoms, or mild ones, are likely high enough for us to transmit the disease.

The CDC guidance provides that those who are immunocompromised or at particularly high risk if they get the disease should wear masks (it sounds like what they should really do is get the third shot from Pfizer, but of course, that would detract from the public health imperative of getting more people vaccinated).

The problem for me, at least, is that too many of those who are resisting vaccines are from communities of racial minorities. Among immigrants, the distrust of government is rooted in the fear of mistreatment, deportation and arbitrary treatment. Everyone has someone they are trying to help or protect.

The deep distrust of government "health" campaigns is rooted in the history of deportation and discrimination. It is certainly a product of fear of deportation in the Hispanic community and ugly history in the Black community. It is not just that Blacks have been systematically denied access to health care. What is worse is the history of Blacks being used for ugly experimentation, which is (to borrow a phrase from that terrifying trope "critical race studies") "baked in" to the Black experience of America.

It doesn't matter. Not here. There is a right choice and a wrong choice here. Race doesn't change what is right and what is wrong. The right choice is to be vaccinated.

The life you save is probably going to be your own, but it could also be the life of someone in your family who listened to you. Government is offering you a lifesaver, free of charge, no strings.

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To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

 

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