Yesterday, the Center for Disease Control announced that masks are unnecessary for fully vaccinated people. “If you’re fully vaccinated, you do not need to wear a mask – indoors or outdoors, in most settings. We’ve gotten this far. Whether you choose to get vaccinated or wear a mask, please protect yourself until we get to the finish line.” An accompanying graphic read: “Fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks.” It’s time to get back to normal, people. 

I think we’ve reached the natural selection phase of the pandemic. The vaccine is widely available. There are plenty of appointments and supply is steady. Some people may need to make more of an effort, but if they really want one, they can get one. The people who don’t want one can live, or die, without. The rest of us shouldn’t have to wait for them. 

We know how to limit the spread of COVID—wear masks and use social distancing. We now have reliable preventatives–vaccines. The people who either believe it’s a hoax or is not that serious should be able to take their own risks. That’s their choice.

I’m not a fan of government mandates, especially on individual behavior, but I also believe we just faced extenuating circumstances when the global pandemic hit. We needed to take most of the precautions that were implemented. I suspect we saved lives with the mask mandate in North Carolina and by shutting down certain businesses and events. The evidence shows that we fared better than our neighbors to the South that took a more lax approach. 

Ironically, most of the people who were shouting loudest about their freedom also wore masks and got vaccinated. They chose to spend the pandemic outraged at people trying to prevent its spread instead of people trying to downplay its impact. Conservative outlets were awash with articles and podcasts castigating Governor Roy Cooper for abusing his power while they were silent as President Donald Trump lied about the dangers of the disease. They didn’t often tell their audiences that they, themselves wore a mask in public or got vaccinated.

Now, we have an unequal response to the virus. Democrats are getting vaccinated at higher rates than Republicans. In Congress, 100% of Democratic Members of Congress are vaccinated while less than half of Republican House members have gotten a shot. In North Carolina, almost 80% of people over 65 years old have at least one shot and 75% have both. The vulnerable population is getting protected. However, counties with higher education levels are getting vaccinated faster than areas with less educated people.  

Republicans have made their supporters skeptical of both the seriousness of the disease and the cure for it. When the pandemic began, they shouted that predictions of 500,000 were alarmist and irresponsible. Then, they claimed that the only people who were dying were people with pre-existing conditions. They politicized the response and left conservatives more vulnerable than liberals. At this point, they are responsible for getting their supporters on board. It’s time to let natural selection take run its course. 

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