COLUMN: Thanks, but I’m keeping my mask on



Pedestrians walk along a shopping district on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago on Saturday, May 22, 2021. Chicago will no longer require masks for fully vaccinated people in most settings following similar changes from the state of Illinois and new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines regarding mask wearing for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, causing distress about when it’s appropriate to wear masks. 

One on hand, when around vaccinated people, there seems to be little risk for any infection or spread. But how often will we be in a group where we know everyone’s vaccination status? We haven’t socially navigated how to ask if someone is vaccinated, while also keeping in mind businesses aren’t going to have people prove their vaccination status. 

This means that we may not be at that point where we could freely be maskless. Both the CDC and I believe that masking is the best way to protect yourself and others, so why would we stop so soon? There will be flu seasons in the future, and I think we should consider masking up during this time so we can prevent flu spread.

Now that Lollapalooza and Riot Fest are returning this summer, I’m eager to return to some of my favorite past times, like concerts. However, they haven’t been clear as to how they will check and validate all attendee’s proof of vaccination. Depending on how secure it will be, I would feel more comfortable masking up during the festival. Even though it will be hot, I don’t think it’s wise to risk possible transmission.

I do miss concerts, airports and big social gatherings, but there is a chance that someone could lie about their vaccination status. In an attempt to combat any possible infection, we should all consider masking up in these situations. These particular situations will call for lots of contact, close proximity and speaking. 

We also have to keep in mind that not everyone will be able to get vaccinated due to religious and medical reasons. This population still needs collective effort for protection. Keeping in mind that we know it is highly unlikely that the US will reach herd immunity, we may be living with masks and social distance for the foreseeable future. 

I also realize that people may think it is too invasive to ask about vaccination status. I understand why, but for the greater good of public safety, I would not mind if businesses were to ask me for proof. After losing so much last year, I am willing to provide that information for the sake of enjoying normalcy again. 

The CDC also announced that regardless of vaccination status, they recommend masking during travel. Looking back at how many times I have breathed the same recycled air as others in airplanes, I think this is a great idea. Thousands of people are constantly going in and out of airports and public transportation. No news has been released on whether people will need to be vaccinated to use commercial airlines, but most have kept their mask mandate. 

Even though the U.S. is making progress with vaccinations, other countries may not be vaccinating at high numbers. We have to be conscious about going to commercialized tourist spots in other countries, such as Mexico, and their locals. We don’t know who has access to vaccines in other countries. Out of respect, we should continue masking during travel.

In the summer, I plan to travel to South Texas to see my family. Although Texas lifted their mask mandate, I still believe that when interacting with high-risk family members we should mask. It’s out of caution and care that I think masking for our immuno-compromised loved ones should be normalized. Even if not for Covid-19, for flu and other viruses.                                                                                                                                                                                     

I don’t feel comfortable doing away with my mask just yet. There is still a lot to be done and I want to assure that I am playing my role in ending the pandemic. Instead of focusing on the act of masking, we need to see how masking will help us reach our goal of ending the pandemic. Covid-19 will never truly go away, and neither will all airborne viruses. So in the spirit of protecting one another, you’ll continue to see me with my mask.