On her show Friday night, MSNBC host Joy Reid interviewed Anthony Fauci, the White House's top COVID-19 adviser. Reid made the following comment.
"I am one of the fully vaccinated," she said. "I'm fully Fauci'd. The question I have is are we really going to get to the end of it? Because, Dr. Fauci, at this point it's political. There are people who are paranoid about you. They've decided they don't trust you, they think you're trying to have the government take over their lives or put nanobots in them and Bill Gates is going to physically control them if they get the vaccine. It isn't just hesitancy, it's paranoia. You have Tucker Carlson basically saying that you're not telling the truth, if you're vaccinated there's no reason to wear a mask anymore. You have people screaming at store clerks because they don't want to wear masks. This is not rational at this point, Dr. Fauci. So I wonder, what do we do about the irrational resistance to doing the basics, getting vaccinated and wearing masks."
Fauci responded by largely echoing her concerns. He eventually conceded that people who were vaccinated could have unmasked gatherings in their own homes under some limited conditions, but stressed continued mask wearing outside the home.
"I don't understand why that freaks people out," said Reid. "Get a cute mask and make it fashion. Just put a mask on."
She has it exactly backward: It is Reid and Fauci who are being irrationally paranoid, not the people they are criticizing.
The available evidence suggests that people who are fully vaccinated are essentially immune from suffering serious disease or death from COVID-19. They are also extremely unlikely to contract the virus at all, which means their odds of infecting someone else are very low. Mass vaccination is the ticket to ending the pandemic, and all advocacy efforts should be directed toward encouraging people to get vaccinated. Scaring the vaccinated back into a lockdown mindset is unnecessary and unscientific.
It's fine to say that people who are not vaccinated should continue to wear masks when occupying crowded indoor spaces with other unvaccinated folks. But outdoor post-vaccination masking is essentially a performative act. Those who no longer participate in this performance are opting out of irrational paranoia, not succumbing to it.