As Mask Mandates Slip, A Preemptive Plea Against Jackassery
It seems we have been talking about mask mandates non-stop for so long now. For nearly a year and a half the old saying of “letting the mask slip” has played out in real life, revealing quite a bit about many folks beyond the face coverings of the moment and the varying mask mandate rules of our Covid times.
Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a piece for Arc Digital about masks that still, to this day, is the most read piece I’ve ever done on any platform on any subject:
Though not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights, some folks treasure the right to be epically offended by the minor inconveniences of life. Wielding the rhetoric of freedom like William Wallace’s great sword, they see themselves as hunting down liberty infringements. What is important is fiercely resisting any and all external impositions, no matter how beneficial they are to the collective good.
The opposing forces are equally committed, championing the doctrine of one-size-fits-all administered by the shoehorn of expert opinion. Far from subtle, these sledgehammers of sameness stand ready to chip away at anything that stands in the way of what is best for us all—according to them, of course.
Both have found their hill to die on: masks.
Sure doesn’t seem much has changed. In life or mask mandates.
As the White House and CDC somewhat abruptly declared the obvious this past week, that vaccinated folks do not need to be wearing a mask in most situations, those who have enjoyed making a whole bunch of noise about masks one way or the other got to play their greatest hits of the past year plus of pandemic rhetoric. They ranged from the usual suspects who declare how manly they defend traditional values in a manly way by utterly freaking out over minor things for attention/income online, to former celebrities going viral for berating hourly employees, to others who want to keep wearing the masks to prove a point, to those who berate wearing masks and OH GOOD HELL my head hurts, this is all so stupid.
Most of this mask mandate controversy is a Very Online thing. In the real world the vast majority of folks have gone about their business following guidelines, getting by as best they can, and trying to go about their lives with a minimum of worrying about the masks one way or another. If a store required a mask, they wore one. Sometimes they did even if not required. Millions of school children are going to school wearing masks. Employees have had to wear them to keep their jobs. Most are probably sick and tired of it, and ready to move on to post-mask life. 158 million folks, as of this writing, have been vaccinated and want their normal life back. Hopefully many more join them to get that vaccinated number as high as possible. Hopefully, we have put down the worst of the pandemic and are moving forward.
All you have to do now is not be a jerk about the period of mask mandate adjustment. And there will be an adjustment. You can still get your jollies off online arguing the policies and their deeper meaning, but in the real world where you are dealing with real people, maybe dial that down from 11 to about a 4 or 5 and be a functional adult in a diverse society. Folks who have been hopped up and force-fed 24/7 Covid news of all kinds for so long have all processed, enacted, and reacted to that information differently. Some are defiant. Some are scared to death. Some are indifferent. Some are annoyed. Everyone needs to understand this and be a bit patient with each other as the floodgates open to normal living in areas that were the most restrictive.
In short, whatever your opinions on Covid, mask mandates, the government-impossed restrictions, the businesses that scrambled to survive, and all the personal cost from the inconvenient to the horrible death toll the pandemic levied on all of us in different degrees, just don’t be a jackass about it.
Businesses certainly aren’t wasting any time announcing their changes in mask mandates and policies. Walmart, not only one of America’s largest retailers but the country’s largest private employer, jumped out in front.
Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S., announced Friday that customers are no longer required to wear masks in its more than 5,000 stores nationwide.
The retail super store changed the rules one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared it was safe for fully vaccinated adults to resume most activities, indoors or out, in groups or individually, mask free and without social distancing.
Walmart is requesting that customers who have yet to receive their vaccine continue to wear a mask, a Walmart news release said.
“According to the CDC, it is safe for fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks in most indoor and outdoor settings,” a news release said. “Fully vaccinated” means it has been two weeks since a person received the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or the single dose of Johnson & Johnson.”
Walmart also gave employees two new reasons to get their vaccine: masks will become optional for fully vaccinated staff members starting Tuesday and proof of vaccination will bring a $75 bonus. Unvaccinated associates will be required to continue wearing masks, some health and sanitation positions may have to do the same.
For employees, the only barrier between a continued pandemic procedure and a mask-free world is a daily health assessment, where associates are expected to respond truthfully about the vaccine.
So when you roll up to Wally World for your mega cheese balls, oil change, and large pack of socks, and you see employees still wearing their masks, or not wearing their masks, just go about your business without comment. And when the individual in line in front of you, who spends the 20 minutes waiting with you for one of the three open registers along with dozens of your fellow citizens, begins to haggle about a price check, take no notice whatsoever of whether or not they are wearing a mask. Just pay it no mind, don’t video and post it on the interwebs, don’t be a jackass; make like The Beatles and let it be.
Starbucks, that ubiquitous temple of the caffeinated where so many folks do their daily worshipping, has followed suit with their mask mandate.
Starbucks has joined a growing list of retailers, restaurants and theme parks that will now allow fully vaccinated customers to go mask free following new coronavirus safety guidance from the federal government.
The company said in a statement that “facial coverings will be optional for vaccinated customers” as of May 17, where allowed by local regulations.
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took many businesses by surprise when it said that people who are vaccinated could go maskless in most places, including indoors. (The policies do not apply to people traveling by bus, plane, train or other kinds of public transportation.) For businesses, the announcement was complicated by the fact that C.D.C. guidance does not override state and local rules. But in a matter of days, several major companies have moved to relax mask requirements. Businesses for the most part have not said they would require customers to show proof that they have been vaccinated.
So if you find yourself in line behind someone ordering their quad long shot grande in a venti cup half calf double cupped no sleeve salted caramel mocha latte with 2 pumps of vanilla substitute 2 pumps of white chocolate mocha for mocha and substitute 2 pumps of hazelnut for toffee nut half whole milk and half breve with no whipped cream extra hot extra foam extra caramel drizzle extra salt add a scoop of vanilla bean powder with light ice well stirred delivered with a twist in the pike position, you don’t have to comment on that individual wearing a mask. Or not wearing a mask. Either way, just let it be. Get your overpriced milkshake, be polite, don’t be jackass, and get on with your day. The mask mandate, or repealing there of, is not affecting your morning either way enough to get worked up over it.
And the list goes on of companies adjusting to new mask mandates or the abolishment thereof. Eventually, all places will end their mask mandates. It won’t be all at once. Hourly employees that are public facing will bear the brunt of the issues, since not only will all those customers have issues, their employers may or may not have the most clearly defined instructions for them to follow. Businesses that were lucky enough to survive their government deciding which ones were essential and which ones were not have a lot of making up to do, and much has probably changed in the meantime as they move from survival mode to business mode again. Be patience with them, don’t berate them for it, and don’t be a jackass.
Whether it is employees, employers, or just your fellow citizen, just let it go. After a year and half, you don’t have some insightful hot take on Covid that no one has yet heard by now. Everyone is sick of masks. Everyone wants life to get back to normal. Well, almost everyone, there are always those that regardless of the crisis will be slow to move off it to the next one for various reasons. But we can’t live to please the outliers, which is a pointless task anyway as they are unpleasable. We won’t all agree to the how, where, why, and method by which each and every one of us go about doing that. But that’s ok. At least we are alive and able to fuss about it. Just do so within the parameters of basic human adulting. Don’t wield your frustration, opinions, or viewpoints as a weapon among the general population. Do your own risk assessment, follow your best available information, and make good decisions for you and your family.
And above all else, whatever your do, don’t be a jackass about it. No one cares what you think after that.