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Common sense takes a back seat on mask-wearing

Just as the vaccine campaign against the coronavirus pandemic appears to be making progress, the chief White House official leading the effort has thrown a potential monkey wrench into the drive. She says that for those who are vaccinated, masks outdoors are no longer required.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), joined President Joe Biden Tuesday in announcing the change. She said: “Over the past year, we have spent a lot of time telling Americans what they cannot do. Today, I’m going to tell you some of the things you can do if you are fully vaccinated.” She listed walking, running, hiking and biking alone or with household members and friends.

The president, removing his mask and chiming in, thanked “everyone who has gotten the vaccine for doing your patriotic duty and helping us get on the path to Independence Day,” his earlier target date to achieve it.

A CDC guidance said nearly 96 million Americans have now been vaccinated. It contends that “taking steps toward relaxing certain measures for vaccination may help improve coronavirus vaccination acceptance and uptake. Therefore, there are several activities that fully vaccinated people can resume now, at low risk to themselves, while being mindful of the potential risk of transmitting the disease to others.”

But the green light for resumption of normal ways may now complicate the task of public-health advocates attempting to identify others not fully vaccinated, risking further spread of the pandemic through much wider social contact.

Many Americans have already bought into the anti-vaccination movement touted by traditional conservatives, particularly within the Republican Party, who oppose vaccination as an intrusion into their right to decide for themselves.

The Grand Old Party, in the wake of the 2020 election defeat of Donald Trump and his efforts tor remain politically viable as its leader, is itself in a crisis mode. It lacks an alternative to Trump of stature in the months and years ahead.

For Republicans, Democrats and independents alike, it would seem better served had the Biden administration and the new president himself had held stolidly to urging state governors to mandate mask-wearing and other rigid public safety sanctions until the pandemic at last is finally conquered.

But the United States being a democracy based on bringing self-government as close as possible to the people where they live, eventually muddling through may be the best we can hope for the return to normal in this period of public-health peril and sharp political division.

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