Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo finally approved the CDC’s new guidelines, letting New York residents go maskless in most situations if they’re vaccinated.
As a vaccinated New York resident, I was thrilled and immediately went to do some shopping to test it out. Since then, I’ve gone maskless in public a number of times in different types of places.
One of the most interesting observations from this past week is that while there are still plenty of people who are wearing masks in public, it seems like even they have taken a more relaxed approach to masking. I’ve noticed more people in masks wearing them with their noses exposed—which we all know is not the correct way to wear them. Are they choosing to virtue-signal their mask-wearing when they no longer need to, or do they just feel more comfortable because of the CDC mandate, but not completely comfortable yet to ditch the mask entirely? I wish I knew.
Some people I’ve observed have their masks pulled entirely down to their chin. Are they trying to have it both ways? Are they just making it easier to put the mask on properly in case they’re confronted by someone? As curious as I am, I’m not about to survey people in stores. But, it seems clear that the new guidelines from the CDC have made people feel more relaxed, even if they’re not completely ready to ditch their masks.
Nevertheless, my weeklong experience of going mask-free in public has gone pretty much without incident. In fact, I’ve only gotten pushback once. I was in the elevator lobby of a hotel when a guest, an older gentleman, told me he believed I was supposed to wear a mask. No hotel staff had told me to put a mask on, but this guy seemed to think I still needed to wear a mask. I didn’t even have a mask on me at that moment, that’s how much I was enjoying my maskless-ness. I told him I am fully vaccinated but he didn’t seem to care.
But, other than that, it’s been smooth sailing.
While it feels like more people should be going maskless, I’m less bothered by that because at least I can. After a year of being told that wearing a mask saves lives and yada-yada-yada, it stands to reason that some people, regardless of vaccination status, find it difficult to ditch the mask. I guess that’s why when I encounter others going maskless in public I feel an unspoken connection to them—a kinship of sorts because despite all the pro-mask conditioning from the government — despite their telling us for months that even if we’re vaccinated we shouldn’t ditch our masks — we are choosing science over fear.
I fully expect that over the next few weeks the number of people I’ll observe going maskless in public will increase. Sadly, though, I also anticipate that there will be a sizable number of people who will never ditch the masks, who will always live in fear. I guess that’s their right.