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EDITORIAL: Roll up your sleeve, and earnestly ditch your mask, too

EDITORIAL: Roll up your sleeve, and earnestly ditch your mask, too

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On Thursday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated mask guidelines for those fully vaccinated against COVID-19. We strongly suggest readers visit the CDC website and read the new guidelines for themselves. There has been a torrent of misinformation on social media the past few days regarding these new guidelines, which are fairly straightforward and begin with “If you are fully vaccinated.”

The relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions for fully vaccinated people essentially means wearing masks is no longer necessary indoors or out, in most situations — for fully vaccinated people.

They new guidelines also say we can resume activities from prior to the pandemic, relax the 6-foot social distancing standard and no longer have to get tested before or after domestic travel — if we’re fully vaccinated.

Unfortunately, that includes far too few McLennan County residents. As of Friday, only 43% of adult-age (16 and older) residents in this county have received at least one dose. That contrasts with 52% statewide. In many states vaccination rates are approaching 70%. The CDC reports nationwide the vaccination rate for people age 18 and over is 59%.

Meanwhile, the pace of vaccinations locally has slowed dramatically from its peak in March and April. While we’re encouraged that 1,958 people in McLennan County received their initial vaccination over the past seven days, we can and must do better.

If you are fully vaccinated, it’s time to resume life as you knew it before the pandemic. There are no restrictions locally or statewide to prevent fully vaccinated people from moving about without masks, or getting within six feet of each other. There are a few exceptions to the new guidelines — such as public transportation — but not many.

The local vaccination effort entered a new phase earlier this month, transitioning from large hub sites to smaller, more convenient clinics with extended hours that offer walk-up vaccinations. You can even choose between Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. The shots given these days are to people who have waited to see if the vaccines were safe, or haven’t made it a priority before now. We get it, and we’re thankful you are stepping up now.

Unfortunately, rampant misinformation and divisive politics continue to extend this pandemic and have made herd immunity impossible. Those who are resistant to vaccines are also not likely to mask up or do much else to help the public health cause. Their indifference means COVID-19 will never truly go away.

Monday will mark the five-month anniversary of Ascension Providence nurse manager Brooke Fielder becoming the first person in McLennan County to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. On that day there were 129 new cases, 1,021 active cases, and 117 people hospitalized with COVID-19. On Friday the were 12 new cases, 128 active cases and 21 people hospitalized due to the virus.

Vaccines obviously work.

It’s time to roll up your sleeve — so you can earnestly and honestly ditch your mask, too.

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