Going maskless is freeing


Gabriel Kaplan

I knew the pandemic was coming to an end when she sneezed into my mouth. I had just finished shopping at Costco. She was the cashier and I was the customer, both vaccinated and both maskless.

We were schmoozing over olive oil when she spewed tens of thousands of little droplets into my face after failing to cover. It was disgusting, I won’t lie, but also a reminder of how far we have come in the last year. Mass vaccination gives us the chance to hold these normal conversations again — and to get sneezed and coughed on. A trade I’m more than happy to make after a year of hyper-vigilance and isolation.

The Costco visit, along with maskless strolls through Trader Joe’s and Target, felt tantamount to crossing the coronavirus finish line. It was relieving to feel like a normal person again. However, I still found myself glaring at other maskless shoppers out of habit and caught a few frowns myself. That is to be expected, though. It took months to habituate to masked life, and it will take many more to emerge from it.

I know plenty who struggle to accept the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ruling that the vaccinated can lose their masks, which is understandable. But this is freedom! If you have been inoculated, you are as safe as you are ever going to be. New strains may emerge, yes. The unvaccinated are still at risk, yes. But that is out of our control. Let the man-baby anti-vaxxers risk their own lives and enjoy your newfound safety from the virus. Your young family and friends who cannot yet get the shot are at low risk of serious illness, so there is no reason to fret. (Of course, they should still throw on a face covering).

Going forward, I plan to mask up from time to time. I haven’t been sick since the pandemic began, in part due to ubiquitous face coverings. I also very much enjoy not getting sneezed at. But when I’m with friends and family or grabbing a meal or at college next fall, I can’t wait to go mask and COVID-19 free.