Masked No More?!?

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In what was one of the easiest to predict, our state is lifting the mask mandate on April 6th. There’s this little basketball tournament you might have heard of and, to reduce travel, they’ve created a “bubble” and played all the games in our state. The final is scheduled for April 5th. (Unrelated point but they call it March Madness even though it always ends in April) But it was obvious that lifting a mandate in the midst of that was going to be way too controversial so we wait until all the madness is gone.

Now it is still recommended to wear a mask and the governor says he will continue to do so. (Trying to walk both sides of the line) And state buildings will still require masks. And local communities and businesses are free to set stricter requirements. Which likely means my city will continue to keep the mandate but the studio is in a suburb where it is likely that there will be no mandate.

As a society, we really seem to have lost the ability to have civil discussions and even disagreements. Each side becomes so convinced that they are on the correct side that they shut their mind to anything that may run counter to their beliefs. And the big tech social media companies run their algorithms to ensure that many people remain safely within their bubbles and aren’t exposed to thoughts and ideas that may differ.

Which is just a long winded way of saying that the whole issue of masks has become so much more personal and controversial than it ever should have been. So it makes me wonder why I’m wading into it. I’m not going to be able to convince anybody because the sides are dug in. I’m really just going to explain my thought process and why I’m going to lose the mask as soon as possible.

It is no secret that I have absolutely hated dancing in a mask. But if I really thought it was providing a high level of protection, I’d keep doing it. There are two things that factor into this decision. First is the available information on masks and second is the current state of the virus in my state.

The WHO has put out three versions of mask guidance – updating it as more data and studies were completed. The last update was on December 1 and the opening line on community settings is that “there is limited and inconsistent scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses”. They then go on to list a large number of studies with links.

They also speak about using a risk based approach to the decision on mandating masks in areas with sporadic transmission. Now this is harder to measure but both the county I live in and the county with the studio are currently at the lowest possible advisory level. Cases have been flat for about a month. Since I used to work in an industry that created diagnostic tests, I know the limitations and that you aren’t going to get to zero cases because the tests aren’t perfect. But all information suggests we’ve hit a low plateau and we’ve had a significant amount of people vaccinated and we are also heading into a time of the year where the transmission of respiratory diseases slows.

Based on all the available information, I believe that my risk of being exposed is low and that a mask would provide little, if any, additional benefit. So, if the studio is going to allow us to dance without masks, then that is what I am going to do.

FYI – the WHO also recommends not wearing masks during “vigorous intense physical activity”. Pretty sure Viennese Waltz would qualify. But they also recommend maintaining physical distancing. Which just puts ballroom dancing into some no man’s land where you can’t follow both recommendations.

Am I crazy? I’m sure there will be those that think so. Shouldn’t I just keep the mask on anyway just to be safe? If I really believed it would have a significant protective ability, I would. But what about my partner? Well that comes down to some other personal responsibility where I don’t go to a lesson if I feel sick. I don’t think there is solid science suggesting that you can spread the virus if you are an asymptomatic carrier. And my current lifestyle is one where I’m spending very little time in crowded indoor settings where the risk of getting a respiratory virus is high.

From what I understand, the studio is not going to require masks once the mandate is lifted. Instructors will still be wearing them unless the student is comfortable with them being unmasked. Groups and parties are not yet decided but will likely still require masks at least for a little bit. Things could get interesting because of how personal and controversial this subject has become. I suspect there will be plenty of people who remain masked and they may also think I’m crazy. And I don’t have a death wish or a severe tolerance for risk. It is simply that I don’t see a major risk in removing the masks at this time.

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