I’ve been a proponent of masks since the beginning of the pandemic, when health authorities were advising against them. They do not offer total protection, but there’s some benefit. Quality masks, properly worn, are one measure that helps limit spread of viruses. I’ve argued that conservatives should embrace masks as the small government alternative to lock downs.
Airlines instituted mask requirements to give customers confidence being around other people in close proximity. The bet is that asking someone to mask wasn’t much of a burden compared to the benefit of knowing that everyone else was masked.
Nearly a year into the pandemic, new President Biden ordered his CDC to institute a mask requirement for transportation. This made airline rules a federal rule, while introducing a new exemption for those who couldn’t wear a mask for medical reasons. Airlines have made jumping through the hoops to use that exemption burdensome.
Masks made sense on planes when, together with HEPA air filtration and downward air flow, they reduced the risk of catching Covid-19 on a plane.
Now vaccines are available. We’re going to have challenges keeping people masked up once they’ve been vaccinated. The rule needs to stay in place now, when most Americans haven’t had a chance to become vaccinated yet. It’s tough to know who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t been.
And with vaccines scarce there was a concern that someone who had been vaccinated might still spread the virus to someone else. That concern was likely overblown. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, for instance, has shown 94% effectiveness against asymptomatic Covid-19 meaning that someone doesn’t show symptoms but might still have and transmit the virus.
— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) March 11, 2021
All of the approved vaccines have been nearly perfect against severe Covid, hospitalization, and death. That’s what we care about. Vaccines mean hospitals not being overrun, so that people who do get Covid-19 and need treatment can get quality care.
I plan to wear a(n N95) mask when I travel during flu season. I used to think about it, but it wasn’t really socially acceptable. That’s changed, and it’s a good thing. Masking and distancing didn’t stop the winter Covid-19 surge, but it did seem to stop the flu which doesn’t spread quite as easily.
But that’s a voluntary choice. Restrictions won’t be justified when everyone who wants a vaccine can get one. It will be months before kids under 16 can get vaccinated but the risk to them is lower than to an average vaccinated adult anyway.
All U.S. adults are expected to become eligible for a vaccine in May. That doesn’t mean there will be enough supply for everyone to have an appointment that day. But soon we’ll be asking and coaxing people to get vaccinated. When anyone who wants one can get one and be largely protected, and when most travelers have some form of immunity from prior infection or vaccination, the mandate should end.
It is certainly possible that a new variant of the virus will escape vaccines, and spread widely, becoming a thread to hospital capacity. If what’s theoretical now becomes a reality, it might be necessary to re-impose a mask rule – until booster vaccine doses are widely available targeting these new mutations.