“Get vaccinated, wear a mask” appears to be the anthem of this spring, but over a year after COVID-19 first arrived in the United States, an increasing number of people are starting to question the virus orthodoxy.
Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new wave of mask guidelines that detail how masks should be worn in certain outdoor situations, and according to vaccination status.
Even the liberal Atlantic magazine had something to say about the “rigid and binary” guidelines and complicated recommendations for which the CDC offered no explanation.
“By issuing recommendations that are simultaneously too timid and too complicated, the CDC is repeating a mistake that’s hounded America’s pandemic response,” a Wednesday article in The Atlantic by Turkish sociologist Zeynep Tufekci reads.
“The new guidelines are rigid and binary, and aren’t accompanied by explanations or a link to an accessible version of the underlying science, which would empower people to both understand them better and figure things out for themselves.”
The criticism extended further, as the article dissected the CDC’s charts.
“The chart for outdoor activities suggests that masks are not necessary for walks or runs, for example, if people are by themselves or with their household, regardless of vaccination status. However, unvaccinated people are advised to wear a mask at ‘small’ outdoor gatherings that include other unvaccinated people, but the people are still marked ‘safest.'”
This poses a question conservatives have been asking for the last few months: Why are large gatherings still considered a “threat” to those who have been vaccinated?
Better yet, why do the vaccinated still have to wear masks?
As confusing as these guidelines are, it doesn’t seem we’ll ever get a clear answer — even the experts are stumped.
Tufekci mentioned that Virginia Tech professor and leading expert on viral transmission Linsey Marr said that these guidelines would be something even she couldn’t remember.
“I would have to carry around a sheet of paper — a cheat sheet with all these different stipulations,” Marr said in an interview following the CDC’s release of the graphics.
One of the most important points The Atlantic article made, however, is how outdoor transmission occurs at “extremely low rates.”
“When outdoor transmission does occur in small numbers, it’s not from fleeting encounters, but from prolonged contact at close distance, especially if it involves talking, yelling, or singing,” Tufekci wrote.
“An increasing number of scientists believe that outdoor and indoor transmission differ so starkly because the coronavirus transmits through aerosols — essentially little floating particles that we emit, even if we are just breathing, but even more if we are talking, yelling, or singing.”
Tufekci explained that aerosols can disperse much more quickly in an open, outdoor area. Indoors, on the other hand, these aerosols have a greater potential to accumulate at a slow, but constant rate and remain in the air.
Close contact in both situations is still considered risky.
We’ve put our lives on hold for almost a year. We held out for so long, believing vaccine distribution might lead to an ease of the restrictions that have halted life, progress and community.
Why aren’t things changing more quickly if the vaccine is as effective as promised?
The CDC could have offered explanations to the frequent questions we ask — including why the vaccinated individual’s illustration on the chart still wears a mask — but the organization has failed to do so.
The CDC needs to update its guidance to offer details as to why these options are the safest and the healthiest for each group, instead of simply throwing out guidelines and expecting people to blindly accept them.
Then again, maybe those in charge would prefer that we comply without question.
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