Last week, a couple of my fully vaccinated friends got into a lengthy debate over the future of their post-pandemic faces. They both agreed that covid notwithstanding, 2020 was a banner year for not getting sick with the kind of cruddy little nothing illnesses that generally torment one in a normal year of interacting with people. However, while one friend maintained that he’s going to keep wearing his mask in public spaces even after it’s not legally and morally required to do so, the other couldn’t wait to rip his off. It poses an interesting question: what the fuck are we supposed to do when all this is over?
NPR presents some pretty strong evidence that masking up, staying socially distant, and avoiding public places when we are sick has had predictable results—people are not as sick with the normal colds and flus as they normally are. Pediatric patients with respiratory illnesses are down 62 percent, likely because they haven’t been in their little germ boxes all day five days a week sneezing into one another’s mouths, and flu deaths among adults are also way down this year. And even as the masses get vaccinated and begin to move about the country a little more freely, many hospitals are contemplating keeping their mask mandates in place permanently, which seems wise as, by their very nature, most of the people in them are sick and some are contagious.
But what becomes of the rest of us? Are we tossing all the masks we’ve acquired over the last 12 months into the trash come summer, keeping them on hand only for when we’re feeling coughy, or going back to the old “Sure let’s all just blow our noses in line at this Wendy’s” American way of life?