I live on the Upper West Side. I am a former Deputy Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, head of a non-profit public health policy institute and am visiting professor at the University of Paris School of Medicine. Despite my good faith, I can’t get my neighbors or dog park acquaintances to relax and unmask themselves.
Welcome to my world where wearing a surgical mask has replaced wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt Social justice signal in postpandemic America.
My zip code is deep blue. “Science is back!” We rejoiced when President Biden was elected. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be true when the science doesn’t agree with what many of my friends and neighbors want to believe.
Despite very clear guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gov. college and Mayor Adams, A lot of my neighbors want to keep their masks on (which is certainly their privilege), but they don’t want me to take mine off either. And they deal with it aggressively. Withering looks and cutting comments. The lack of respect and embrace of – what else can I call it? — “Fake News” is discouraging.
My wife and I are triple vaccinated and do regular self-tests. We live in a low infection/high injection zone. Very green by the The new standard from CDC. And yet many in my neighborhood remain wedded to what was, as if taking off one’s mask was somehow a recognition of victory for anti-scientific, anti-maskers and anti-vaccination. Maybe it’s a new form of PTSD. It’s certainly creeping chicken little-ism.
Overprotection & distrust
But it’s more than just your run-of-the-mill New York neurosis. A real public health risk is brewing. If we cannot support our friends and neighbors who want to take their masks off, when such actions have strong scientific backing, how can we get them to put their masks back on should the situation require it in the future?
(This is a real possibility. Please do not shoot the messenger.)
“I’m still doing research” was a lame excuse for not getting vaccinated, and it’s a poor excuse to insist that we all keep our masks on.
We can not “Follow the Science” when convenient or consistent with our politics or personal belief system. That leads to bad spots. Science is neither blue nor red. Unfortunately, for many New Yorkers and many Americans, that is inconvenient and inconvenient. We have to trust the system and each other.
Taking off the mask is not a victory for “the other side”. It is a Public Health Victory for all of us. We worked hard for it. We deserve it. And our children deserve it too.
Remove your mask (in which case) and explaining to your friends and neighbors why you are doing this (in a polite and non-judgmental way) is just as important as explaining the value and urgency of vaccination. It supports science. It does the right thing. It helps all of us to get comfortable with reality.
Do you remember the reality?
Peter J. Pitts, a former Associate Commissioner of the FDA and a member of the United States Senior Executive Service, is President of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and Visiting Professor at the University of Paris School of Medicine.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/08/please-new-yorkers-just-let-the-masks-slide/ Please, New Yorkers, just let the masks slide!