Op/Ed

Editorial: Of going maskless and risk

ANGELO LYNN

Despite the headlines from Gov. Scott’s press conference trumpeting that schools that were 80% vaccinated would be able to go maskless on Feb. 28, the reality is most schools across the state will keep wearing masks for the next few weeks. That’s because very few schools have reached the 80% mark. But that’s OK — the omicron variant is still infecting high numbers of Vermonters (even as the case loads are declining), it’s cold out and we’re still inside more than outside which makes it harder to socialize and be safe without masks, and Vermont still has a fair number of people in our hospitals with Covid-19.

But reading between the lines of Gov. Scott’s Tuesday’s presser, the governor said to give the state a few more weeks, and, if all was going as expected and case counts continued to plummet, the state will recommend removing the mask requirement altogether.

The strategy is interesting. The play is to get the public used to the idea of dropping masks at schools, and potentially at businesses throughout the state, before actually calling for such action in a few weeks. After two years of caution, experts must surely have argued, you can’t just suddenly drop what we’ve all been told is a needed safety measure without causing alarm. But by getting used to the idea, and moving a bit closer to spring weather, will make the transition easier and smoother.

As Gov. Scott has done from the outset of the pandemic, it’s a cautious approach to dealing with the public’s uncertainty and fear of the virus, and will likely serve Vermonters well.

In the meantime, Vermonters should recall that the governor has not used emergency powers to mandate mask wearing at schools or in the general public. Rather, schools and towns have been asked to develop their own policies to fit their particular needs. Many businesses still ask customers to wear masks, or at least say that it’s appreciated, but stop short of store mandates. Most schools have required masks, but hopefully by winter’s end that, too, will fade into the sunset and we’ll be able to see each other’s smiles.

We welcome that return, but we also appreciate the cautious and wise approach we’ve taken to get there. No doubt that approach has saved lives and family heartache, which has been well worth the effort.

Angelo Lynn

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