Time to Unmask?

Editors agree that no, it is not

Lyle Griggs, Copy

Seabury cross country runners know that it’s never a good idea to stop and lie down just when the finish line is in sight; it’s hard to win races that way. I’ve checked with my runner cousins (the fleet-footed Nelsons) about this, and they agree — it usually helps to keep running quickly even when the finish is just feet away

Sadly, certain people are having difficulty applying this sound athletic logic to the ongoing pandemic. Yes, it does look like the figurative finish line is near; case numbers are down in most states, vaccination rates are excellent among all adults (particularly in Kansas as of early April) and the vast majority of vulnerable senior citizens have received the jab. And although COVID-19 variants pose a threat to recovery, studies have shown thus far that currently available vaccines are effective against new strains. Overall, things are looking up for once.

Still, some governments have responded too hastily to the good news, scrapping nearly all guidelines intended to limit the spread of COVID-19. Ten states, led by Texas, have lifted comprehensive mask mandates, risking a resurgence of the virus despite recent improvements. Unfortunately for us, Kansas is one of those states; the state legislature overturned Governor Laura Kelly’s mask mandate last month, and major counties (including Sedgwick) have discarded their own mandates.

HThese politically-motivated actions are irresponsible and disappointing. I certainly support reasonable rollbacks of pandemic-era restrictions, particularly those recommended by health professionals and organizations like the CDC, but mask mandates have no significant negative economic impact, and I see no reason to annul them until conditions are safe. People have heard that stuff about masks ad nauseum, so I’ll shut up, but we should all be on the same page about this: masks are good, and it really isn’t that hard to wear them.

Point is, despite steadily improving conditions, general mask mandates should stay in place until the coast is fully clear. I am fully in support of easing economic restrictions and limiting social-distancing guidelines as appropriate, but it’s simply imprudent to repeal such simple measures as mask mandates before a majority of Americans are vaccinated and health professionals update guidance. Let’s not lie down feet from this finish line, as tempting as the rest might be.