The CDC has announced the new masking guidance and as I listened to the CDC media telebriefing late in the day Friday, I could not help but feel punched in the gut. The lack of collective public will to care for each other won the battle that public health has been waging to protect communities from preventable severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The human factor was left out of the equation as we have seen the deep divisions in our country widen with each passing month of the pandemic.
I came across The Hard Lessons We Learned — and Didn’t — From Two Years in Pandemic School by Washington Post journalist, Joel Achenbach, and this “lesson” captured everything that I have been feeling, but had not been able to put into words: “Pandemics end psychologically before they do biologically.” This is the next door we are walking through in the pandemic, where it has ended in the minds of many, but not biologically. Wishful thinking does not reverse preventable illness, yet here we are.
The punch in my gut lingers, but I have a clearer understanding of why the CDC recalculated their metrics that literally flipped a light switch that turned the country from red to yellow/green.
(cont) To This.. pic.twitter.com/0zUeN8Jifw— Kavita Patel M.D. (@kavitapmd) February 25, 2022
The refrain I heard over and over again from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC was that “people may choose to wear a mask at any time.” While this may be true, what is not part of this equation are the unintended consequences of what happens in schools when universal masking is lifted. I Tweeted out this message as I listened to the press conference:
Imagine being the student wanting to protect immunosuppressed family members & being teased, bullied, or ostracized at school for caring about others. Or the student who was COVID + or close contact & must mask up to limit quarantine/isolation. We cannot protect their privacy now— Robin Cogan (@RobinCogan) February 25, 2022
March 7, 2022, is the day that universal mask mandates will be lifted in my state of New Jersey. For now, I am thankful my school district will continue with masking in school. The next few weeks and months as masks are lifted in most spaces will guide the next steps in the pandemic. Hopefully, we are moving to an endemic phase, but time will tell. In the meantime, it will take a very long time for us to recover our equilibrium and begin to heal from more than two years of a global public health emergency.