To Mask Or Not To Mask

A Question for New Orleanians

Edwin Buggage Editor-in-Chief

Life in New Orleans is one where every day is festival like, and the celebrations that bring hugs, laughter and camaraderie is the lifeblood that runs through the veins of the people and is at the core of their very existence.

Today our City, state, nation, and world continues to live with the new normal that is life during COVID-19. It is one where social distancing, mask wearing, sickness and unfortunately the loss of loved ones for some have become a reality.

Recently, the CDC released a statement that Fully Vaccinated People Can Stop Wearing Face Masks and End Physical Distancing in Most Settings. Giving hope that life can eventually get back to normal.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that the fully protected can, however, resume doing many of the things they had to give up because of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

“We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” Dr. Walensky said. “That moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated.”

Mask Mandate Relaxed in New Orleans for the Fully Vaccinated
On the heels of this announcement many cities and states began to relax mask mandates. This 180-degree turn, while a welcomed sign for many who have grown weary of mask wearing is not a sign of victory as many places including New Orleans that have not reached herd immunity that is between 75-80 percent according to New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who recently spoke to Data News Weekly.

Last week New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said New Orleans will lift its mask mandate only for people who are fully vaccinated.

Cantrell said the mask mandate remains in place for city government buildings, K-12 schools, healthcare facilities, and public transportation.
Capacity limits of 250 indoors and 500 outdoors will also remain in place until further notice.

Also, New Orleans reportedly has a vaccination rate of over 50% for eligible people, leading the State of Louisiana.

How Do We Know Who’s Vaccinated and Who’s Not…An Honor’s System?

While this is welcome news, many are still not vaccinated and households across the City are having to think about how to move forward, with an “honors system” without knowing if people they encounter in places such as Walmart, Costco or Trader Joe’s who have removed their mask mandate are fully vaccinated.

“In a city where “Southern hospitality” is hard-wired into our DNA, the prospect of being in public, surrounded by maskless individuals is absurd to me at this point in an ongoing Pandemic. We have, over the course of 12-plus months, changed our behavior towards others, but as exciting as reengaging may sound, I believe we are jumping the gun. What will we trust: the honor system, where it’s left to individuals to be honest about being vaccinated, or the mask? My intuition leads me to trust the latter and continue exercising my rights and vigilance. Perhaps once the numbers of fully vaccinated Americans have caused greater gains towards herd immunity, (a foreseeable prospect for the near future), we could finally lay aside our masks and ride off into the next second line. But until then, we should just stick it out. Our elders lived by the proverb, “trouble don’t last always.” Neither will this Pandemic, says” Renetta Perry, who’s worked in media for over two decades.

As large businesses relax mask mandates, small businesses have to consider this as well, but some are choosing to keep them in place for now. “As a business owner who is fully vaccinated, I appreciate that recent news of relaxing mask mandates for people who are fully vaccinated, but I am still concerned about the health risks involved without safeguards in place and really not knowing who is vaccinated. For now, I will continue wearing the mask when I am out in public in crowded spaces and will continue to require mask wearing in my business,” says Joyce Wilson, owner of Mr. Chill’s First-Class Cuts.

The Race to Back to Normal is Herd Immunity
While the relaxing of mask mandates are a welcome sign for some who want to get back to normalcy, getting to herd immunity is truly the goal says Takeisha Davis, MD, New Orleans East Hospital President and CEO, who’s been on the frontline leading an effort to get people across the City vaccinated.

“The CDC guidance removing masking and social distancing requirements for fully vaccinated individuals in most settings is further validation that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at preventing death and disease from COVID-19. And while I too have grown tired of wearing masks every day, this isn’t a declaration that we are post COVID-19. Rather, we have to be more vigilant now because we do not know if the unmasked person next to us is vaccinated or just choosing not to wear as mask. The only true way for all of us to relay on the “vaccination honor system” is for all of us to get vaccinated. It is our best shot at getting back to the culture we all know and love in New Orleans.”

Better Days Ahead: Masking Up and Getting the Whole Family Vaccinated
The target of 75-80 percent of people getting vaccinated is possible, but of course there is some reluctance among some and this recent revision by the CDC muddy the water and can possibly lead to some to decide they do not need to take the vaccine.

Now children as young as 12 can get the vaccine, for some parents this is a welcomed sign that their children can go back to some sense of normalcy at some point. “I agree with lifting the mask mandate, it shows much needed progress towards a path normality. However, we need the rest of the country to buy in for total herd immunity. It would be great if my son could receive the vaccination. We’re all in this together,” says Jamie Jones, a local educator.

In the U.S., the response and rollout of vaccine have not been perfect by any measure but compared to some nations the country is turning the corner with better days ahead.

“I praise God for blessing the country to arrive at this juncture in the Pandemic. Just look at what’s happening in India and one can imagine that this could have been the United States if not for the Grace of God,” says Almore Cato, a retired educator, who continues to work with children and feels the recent CDC Guidelines are a step in the right direction. “I am grateful for the latest CDC mask directives and plan to only wear my mask in large indoor gatherings and in close proximity to unvaccinated persons.”

In homes that are multi-generational masking up and taking heed to safety protocols are important. This is the case with Renetta Perry, who is in the home with both her mother and 12-year-old daughter.

“For my 86-year-old mother who is still able to decide her own medical fate, it was a no-brainer. After surviving the virus late last year, she was all for being vaccinated. Now having completed both rounds of the Moderna vaccine with no side effects, she is relieved and is an advocate for vaccination.”

“But for my 12-year-old daughter, the decision is far more complicated to reach. As a parent, I am responsible for her well-being and overall quality of health. The jury is still out on the effects of the vaccine on children under 18-years-old. For this reason, I have decided to wait. I need more information and I’m dedicated to researching and educating myself in an effort to advocate for her. I realize time is of essence, so I intend to make a decision before school bells ring next August. Until then she will do what she’s been doing for the past 12 months: “masking up, social distancing, and washing her hands often. These measures have worked for us thus far.”
________________________________________
While the relaxing of mask mandates are a welcome sign for some who want to get back to normalcy, getting to herd immunity is truly the goal says Takeisha Davis, MD, New Orleans East Hospital President and CEO, who’s been on the frontline leading an effort to get people across the City vaccinated.

Almore Cato, a retired educator, who continues to work with children and feels the recent CDC Guidelines are a step in the right direction. “I am grateful for the latest CDC mask directives and plan to only wear my mask in large indoor gatherings and in close proximity to unvaccinated persons.”

“In a city where “Southern hospitality” is hard-wired into our DNA, the prospect of being in public, surrounded by maskless individuals is absurd to me at this point in an ongoing pandemic. We have, over the course of 12-plus months, changed our behavior towards others, but as exciting as reengaging may sound, I believe we are jumping the gun. What will we trust: the honor system, where it’s left to individuals to be honest about being vaccinated, or the mask? says” Renetta Perry, who’s worked in media for over two decades.

“As a business owner who is fully vaccinated, I appreciate that recent news of relaxing mask mandates for people who are fully vaccinated, but I am still concerned about the health risks involved without safeguards in place and really not knowing who is vaccinated. For now, I will continue wearing the mask when I am out in public in crowded spaces and will continue to require mask wearing in my business,” says Joyce Wilson, owner of Mr. Chill’s First Class Cuts.

Now children as young as 12 can get the vaccine, for some parents this is a welcomed sign that their children can go back to some sense of normalcy at some point. “I agree with lifting the mask mandate, it shows much needed progress towards a path normality. It would be great if my son could receive the vaccination. We’re all in this together,” says Jamie Jones, a local educator.

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