Last week, my wife and I did something we hadn’t done since March of 2020: we walked into a supermarket without wearing masks.

This might not seem radical, but a word of explanation is in order here.

My mother, who turns 86 this coming May, lives up the road from us in an Assisted Living Facility. One of the words many Americans learned during the pandemic, comorbidity, was already quite familiar to me. While age itself isn’t technically a comorbidity, the incidence of comorbidity certainly increases with age. Hypertension and asthma are dangerous conditions for someone if they contract COVID, and Mom has a history of both.

In a word: I didn’t want to commit matricide. Consequently, I’ve treated the entire pandemic as if there was no vaccine, even after we all got both shots, and the booster to boot.

 

Pandemic to Endemic?

As we move from a pandemic phase to an endemic phase, new infection cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID have slowed. Of course, the pandemic has been an absolute nightmare in Florida, thanks to mouth-breathing morons running amok unmasked and heedless of the consequences, from March 2020 until today.

I’ve been thinking about this entire situation recently in terms of discipline. And I have to say, I’ve really been fond of a popular meme that reads, “A mask and a shot. No one’s asking you to storm the beaches at Normandy.”

Just as I’ve walked an average 2+ miles every day for the past couple years, I’ve worn a mask everywhere, whether required or not. I’m not the most disciplined person in the world, so I’m proud of that.

At a recent doctor’s appointment, I had a conversation with a Physician Assistant who got COVID a couple months ago. Even after both shots, she and her husband were infected. She had to miss two weeks from work, and was “still recovering,” she said, two months later. She was not the picture of perfect health. It was a powerful reminder. I’d imagine that, without the vaccine, she might have died.

 

And Then The CDC Changed Its Guidance Again

After that experience, it was with some trepidation that I walked into a store without a mask for the first time in two years.

I must admit, it was weird. Surreal. Of course, even at the local supermarket, I still see about 20% of the customers and staff masked up. There’s no rule anymore, no mandate, no rhyme or reason to who wears a mask and who goes without.

That tempered my feeling of relative freedom with a somewhat uneasy feeling. My wife and I knew we would not be long in the store, we would keep a healthy distance from other patrons…and, of course, we have both gotten triple-vaxxed.

Still, I didn’t want others to worry we might give them COVID. And so, having had that brief feeling of relative liberty, I think I’ll refrain from doing it again until the CDC issues guidance that masks are no longer needed anywhere.

It’s strange: wearing a mask to protect others from possible infection has become a habit. Is it necessary? Maybe not, but it was a part of my wife’s Southeast Asian culture even before the pandemic. If nothing else, I don’t mind being extra considerate of my fellow citizens now. A tiny silver lining in an awful pandemic, I might be a slightly better person than I was before COVID happened. And for that, at least, I’m grateful.

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