To hide or not to hide?
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new mask guidelines, which say those vaccinated can remain naked in most outdoor environments, are a return to normal. But after the trauma of the past year, many Americans are struggling to uncover their faces so quickly – let alone revert to their old ways.
Shake hands now? Embrace? Dine inside? These are matters made more complicated by constantly changing rules, which can vary from state to state and even from neighborhood to neighborhood.
Some of us have also found that masks are useful for things other than preventing infections. They can keep our faces warm in the winter, help introverts hide in plain sight, and allow us to lip-sync a Dua Lipa hymn during an uncomfortable workout. Not to mention helping us let go of vanity and save time. “It keeps me from having to put on sunscreen and wear lipstick,” said Sara J. Becker, associate professor at Brown University School of Public Health.
Dr Susan Huang, professor of infectious diseases at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, said the conflicting psychology around mask wear is a function of rapidly changing risk and differences in risk tolerance. While about a third of the country is fully vaccinated, we are still a long way from the roughly 80 percent needed to achieve herd immunity.
“We’re between dark and light,” Huang said, comparing the psychology around masks to the different ways people choose to dress in spring. People who are more risk averse continue to wear winter clothing on 50 degree days, while the greater risk takers may choose shorts.
“Eventually,” she said, “everyone will be wearing shorts.”
My colleague Ginia Bellafante, who writes about New York, noticed that residents of her Brooklyn neighborhood were also reluctant to lose their masks, either because they were traumatized after loved ones fell ill or because they had people in their lives who weren’t vaccinated or lived with conditions.
“Whatever happens, many of us will not be able to let go of the fear and insularity caused by the pandemic,” she wrote. “Even people who are fully vaccinated still, in many cases, choose a place outside when they go out to eat.”
At least for now, Ginia continued, some of us are “hostages still indebted to the demands of our kidnapper.”
When families come together
Perhaps more than any other population, residents and staff of nursing homes have been hit hardest by the pandemic. In the United States, deaths in long-term care facilities account for nearly a third of all Covid deaths nationwide. The pandemic also separated nursing home residents and their loved ones for a year, and that isolation triggered its own physical and mental health crisis.
As nursing facilities open up, families are being admitted again and Times photographers were there to document the reunion.
What else are we following
What do you do
I borrowed books from our local library. I reserve them online and can’t wait to pick them up – my outing of the week. The historical fiction of WWII was the genre. It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself during shutdowns when you read countless stories of danger, fear, cover-up, and food rationing. I feel really lucky to be home and safe.
– Susan Doran, Angelica, New York State
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