Why we will keep wearing masks

Our locality still reports new cases nearly every day. Health professionals say COVID-19 remains a serious threat.

Signs that are starting to appear on store windows announce that wearing masks becomes optional at midnight on May 14. That’s when new regulations formulated by the Centers for Disease Control and adopted by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

I read such a sign on the door to the Circle K convenience store that’s part of Floyd’s Exxon Station on North Main Street.

Then I got home to find the county had another two new infections of COVID-19 in Tuesday’s report from the Virginia Department of Health.

That report says Virginia had 378 new cases and 13 additions added to more than 11,000 deaths from the pandemic. Floyd’s two new cases bring the county’s total to 864 infections over the past year — a rate that CDC shows a high risk, particularly for the majority of county residents who are not yet vaccinated.

The county’s number of cases looks well below higher populated areas like Montgomery County, Roanoke city and county, and most other localities in the Old Dominion, but when the rate is factored on a relative scale of infections against the population, Floyd continues to be an area of high risk.

CDC says those venturing out into public should wear masks if they are in contact with others who are not vaccinated should keep their masks on. With more than half of the county not vaccinated, that chance remains high.

“Because of high COVID-19 transmission in Floyd County, unvaccinated people are at a high risk,” a CDC spokesman said Wednesday morning.

Wife Amy contracted COVID-19 in December 2019, months before the virus became a public threat. She almost died from spiking blood pressure and a deadly drop in her oxygen content. At the time, Carilion did not know what she had.

Health officials have told us that she was not alone. Others came down with the virus before it was even listed as a threat to this nation or before it was “discovered” in China. Thousands around the nation remain part of an uncounted total of victims of the pandemic.

We will continue to wear masks after May 15. We may remain behind them while celebrating Memorial Day.

So will 59-year-old Harvey Stebbins, who showed up wearing his mask at a political event near Richmond this past weekend.

“I wear them because you should,” Stebbins told The Washington Post.  “I had cancer a couple of years ago, so I’m careful. And I don’t want to die for somebody’s idiotic ideology.”

A lot of others at the rally were maskless.

“My mask is a political statement about how much I can’t stand pollen,” writes Post reporter David Weigel in his email newsletter, The Trailer.

Democrats who spent 14 months following pandemic health practices are suddenly campaigning in the world they pined for. Herd immunity is getting closer. Shutdowns are ending. Zoom happy hours are giving way to outdoor meet-and-greets.

But unlike Republicans, who cast off the pandemic rules well before scientists favored it, Democrats are wrestling with how fast to move back to normal. Hand-washing has given way to hand-wringing. Republicans they mocked for dismissing coronavirus precautions are suddenly calling them “anti-science.” Candidates who’d gotten used to bumping fists and elbows are seeing outstretched hands again, with a nanosecond to decide whether it’s responsible to shake them.

–The Trailer, by David Weigel

“This newest CDC guidance is not based on science, does not protect public health, and threatens the lives of patients, nurses, and other frontline workers across the country,” says Bonnie Castillo, a registered nurse and executive director of the National Nurses United union.

Virginia state Sen. Jennifer McClellan says she and her family will “err on the side of caution.”

“I think it’s become a habit,” McClellan said in an interview. “I’m fully vaccinated. My family is fully vaccinated. But I also err on the side of caution, and I ask people what they’re comfortable with.”

Many of us are comfortable with staying alive and well.