Governor Charles D. Baker Jr.’s announcement this week that all pandemic-related precautions would be lifted by the end of the month elicited a collective sigh of relief (or perhaps a celebratory cheer) from many residents across the state.
This declaration comes 430 days after the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed on Cape Cod. For more than a year, we have masked up, kept our distance from others and changed the way we have lived our daily lives in the hopes that one day we could get back to something that looks like normal.
And now that day is little more than a week away.
While this is welcome news for many, others are not quite ready. As people begin to navigate a maskless world that has opened up at full capacity, it remains as important as ever to be kind.
Yes, the science supports it—more than 60 percent of people in the state have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and the one-week average positivity rate is down to 1 percent.
Still, not everyone is ready to ditch their masks. Others still have decided that they will always keep one at the ready.
Their reasons vary—possibly they are worried that it is impossible to tell who has been vaccinated, conceivably their child cannot get the vaccine yet, wearing a mask might make other people more comfortable, perhaps they have an underlying condition that makes them personally vulnerable to the virus, or maybe they have a sick child or parent at home and do not want to risk exposing them.
Some people want to keep wearing a mask for reasons that have nothing to do with preventing illness at all. Instead, it has become a security blanket of sorts, protecting them from previously angst-inducing social situations.
Additionally, some businesses may continue to ask customers and employees to wear masks.
In the days since the governor’s announcement, comments on social media have referred to people who will still wear masks after May 29 as “loonies’’ or “Karens.” Some have stated that any company asking them to mask up will lose their business. On the flip side, others are saying that they will continue to mask up so that they will not be labeled as having a certain political affiliation or have implied that anyone who no longer wears one is selfish and weak.
None of this is productive.
As children we are taught to treat others as we wish to be treated and that if we do not have anything nice to say, we should say nothing at all. These fundamental lessons should be kept in mind as we proceed in the coming weeks.
We have all had our own experiences in the past 430 days that have shaped the way we will respond to the world returning to normal. Respect, empathy and understanding will go a long way as we all figure out when and how we are ready to move past the pandemic.