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Less livid, more living

Jody Vance: Choose to leave the mask behind? Cool. I choose to wear one, also cool. See how easy that is?

To mask or not to mask, that should not be a question.

Entering into this first full week of all mandates lifted for public places outside healthcare settings, the page turns on a new era in our COVID BC timeline.

What was a directive is now a choice. Do you? Don’t you? What about transit? What about ferries? What about events, or the workplace?

Given the last two years of epic stress, the level and amount of judging taking place out there isn’t surprising. But where’s the hot take that it’s actually GOOD NEWS that public health officials have said mandates are no longer needed?

Oh, here it is…the Middle.

Up front, I’m keeping the mask as a layer of protection. I’m also going to get a fourth doze of vaccine if invited. And I never stopped the basics like intensive handwashing and being mindful of who I mix closely with indoors. All of it. Why? Because I have immune compromised loved ones and I want to protect them.

Now, if one chooses not to do those things, I’m going to be cool with that. I would encourage you and everyone one to find their way back to being cool with personal health risk assessment. Focus less on the person wearing/not wearing a mask and more on trusted scientists telling us it’s safe to ease measures/mandates.

This Middle wants to read this next pandemic chapter as one where we understand the foe far better than Spring 2020 – and armed with that experience, to reclaim some small slice of normalcy with the reins of personal risk assessment back in our individual hands.

Yes, this has been an excruciatingly slow walk toward normalcy. I’d like to encourage something else: turn a collective eye toward re-establishing another lost societal piece: public trust.

“Isolation has taught me that I really don’t like people” is a joke I’ve heard more than a few times, and it’s no longer funny. Getting reacclimatized with social interaction is a real hurdle, next to insurmountable for some in the short term. Perhaps this is the point where we drop the boxing gloves, bring back the kid gloves – and ease back towards at least trying to like people. (See what I did there? It’s a joke.)

Isolation has seen many of us slide into silos. Told repeatedly of the need for social distance, we have quickly become accustomed to taking the long way around each other. Masked or maskless, we can’t forget to look each other in the eye – and once more look out for one another.

Choose to leave the mask behind? Cool. I choose to wear one, also cool. See how easy that is?

Trust that I have my reasons and I will trust you have yours.

The parameters of public trust in a pandemic go something like this:

  • I trust that if you were feeling unwell you’d stay home.
  • I trust that if you test positive, you would isolate for a minimum of five days.
  • I trust that you would never rely on a single rapid test to give a green light when symptoms are present.
  • I trust that if you’re a close contact of someone who tested positive you’d wear a mask in public.
  • I trust that if you’re a parent, you’d keep your kid home from school if unwell, and mask up.

Not hard.

If the countless scientific briefings on COVID-19 have taught us anything, it’s how to protect ourselves from the virus.

The majority of scientists around the globe seem to agree that mandates can be lifted safely in highly vaccinated countries. The caveat, and it’s a BIG ONE, is that mask wearing is still a very useful layer of protection.

Vaccinate, boost, mask, know the risk associated with gatherings: these are the lessons of COVID that will stay with us long term.

Our reality is learning how to live with waves of COVID while protecting our healthcare system. Holding onto good news while continuing to consider those around us isn’t a bad place to start.