For the duration of the pandemic, Team Blue has obeyed a simple refrain—one reinforced ad nauseam by Democratic politicians, the mainstream media, and the country's technocratic elite: Follow the Science and Listen to the Experts.
In liberal enclaves like Manhattan and D.C., compliance with the extremely risk-averse recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been nearly universal. Out of an abundance of caution, and in deference to people like White House coronavirus advisor Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, many left-leaning people have worn masks, even while alone outdoors.
But last week, the CDC abruptly reversed course. While Walensky had up until recently warned of "impending doom" if people did not continue to practice aggressive masking and social distancing, the government's new position is that the vaccinated can go back to normal. People who are fully vaccinated do not need to worry about getting sick, and are extremely unlikely to contract COVID-19 and spread it to someone else. For them, the pandemic is over.
This wildly good news is, if anything, overdue: For weeks, if not months, it has been evident that the vaccines are incredibly effective and would likely significantly reduce transmission. No one should accuse the CDC of moving too quickly: It waited and waited and waited for a scientific consensus on the vaccines, and then it waited even longer, and now has finally conceded the truth.
Yet the reaction from the Listen-to-the-Experts crowd has ranged from disbelief to terror. Over on Twitter, many progressives have been shocked by the new guidance and have signaled they would ignore it. Gun control activist David Hogg declared that he intends to keep wearing a mask because he doesn't want to be mistaken for a Republican. On the streets of D.C., I have overheard other people make similar remarks.
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow candidly confessed that she had trained herself to see unmasked people as a threat and that she would have to work at rewiring her brain. (To her credit, Maddow suggested that her very progressive audience should do the same.) And there are now countless op-eds penned by liberals with headlines like "Why I Won't Quit My Mask. Not Yet."
If people want to keep wearing masks, that's their right. Everyone who objected to being bullied for not wearing a mask should intuitively grasp that it would be similarly obnoxious to turn around and start barking orders at people who fail to ditch them. I'm not interested in mask-shaming here.
But officials who mandated masks on the grounds that the experts had deemed this necessary should not get away with keeping such mandates in place now that the experts have turned against them. Case in point: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she would seek additional clarification from the CDC before making any changes—and in the meantime, she encouraged everyone to keep wearing masks.
"People need to continue to follow the public health guidance that has gotten us this far, and masks are a big and important part of that," Lightfoot said. Other Democratic officials around the country, from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, have echoed that sentiment. But the public health guidance says that masks are important for people who aren't vaccinated. It's not confusing. Wear a mask until you're fully vaccinated, and then don't.
The mask was supposed to be a temporary public health intervention, and it's regrettable that for many people these little bands of cloth have become Team Blue's version of the Make America Great Again hat. If officials keep forcing this choice on others even past the point of vaccination, they can't accurately cite the science in their defense.