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To wear a mask (or not) now presents an entirely new set of enforcement challenges

Despite the CDC’s latest recommendations, I’m keeping my mask handy until more of us get vaccinated — not just for them but also because it makes me feel safer.

Fights over mask-wearing were bad enough before. Now that we’re being told we don’t need to wear them if fully vaccinated, are businesses going to start demanding vaccination cards?
Fights over mask-wearing were bad enough before. Now that we’re being told we don’t need to wear them if fully vaccinated, are businesses going to start demanding vaccination cards?
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

I’m busting out.

I’ve had my two shots. I’ve still got plenty of masks — the decorative kind and the unfashionable ones — and I’m ready.

New guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that fully vaccinated people can now walk about inside venues without wearing a mask.

While there appears to be a lot of confusion about whether those of us who’ve been vaccinated should still wear a mask, I’m not conflicted.

“A mask is mostly about protecting others,” Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago’s public health commissioner, says. “I wear my mask to protect you. You wear your mask to protect me.”

I knew that.

But, frankly, every time I left my home wearing a mask, I felt safer, too.

If I got to my car and realized I didn’t have on a mask, I’d run back to my apartment — not because I wanted to protect others but because I was watching out for me.

I’m still not comfortable going barefaced when I’m outside of my home, in a store or among people I don’t know. Despite what the CDC says, unmasking is going to take some time.

But now that we are on the honor system, with some stores, restaurants and other venues flinging their doors wide open to the fully vaccinated, the mixed-messaging about mask-wearing is concerning.

How do we know whether the person standing a little too close without a mask on is vaccinated or just obstinate?

Last year, enraged customers at some stores assaulted employees whose task it was to make sure that shoppers were wearing face coverings. And those customers weren’t always belligerent Trump supporters trying to make a point. In Lawndale, two sisters stabbed a security guard 27 times after a confrontation over them refusing to wear a mask and use hand-sanitizer.

We can expect to see other violent clashes if businesses attempt to verify that customers have been vaccinated.

Unfortunately, too many people don’t care about others. Whether they are making a political statement or are just too ornery to put on a mask, they’re prolonging the battle against COVID-19.

So I’m busting out while I can.

I dreaded being injected with a vaccine rushed to the world because of the pandemic. But when I was next in the queue, I just winced and got it over with. Like millions of other Americans, I found the side effects of the two-dose vaccine minimal.

Yet I can’t convince two of my four adult children to get vaccinated. As attentive as they are to their health and their children’s health, they are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

Too many other Americans are doing the same.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, although the COVID vaccine is readily available, fewer people are now signing up for the shots. As of Friday, only 47% of adults in Illinois have been fully vaccinated.

It could be another long, hot, boring summer for people who shun the vaccine. Instead of being subjected to temperature scans and questionnaires to gain entry to public spaces, Chicagoans might have to show a vaccination card.

That’s likely to open up a new can of worms.

But while I am busting out of my bubble, I’m also going to restock the hand-sanitizer — just in case.

The science keeps telling me that, by wearing a mask and getting the vaccine, I’m protecting others.

But my instincts keep reminding me that, in the end, I’m protecting myself.