Unfortunately, the more mask mandates we drop, like the travel mask mandate, the longer we exacerbate the effects of the pandemic.

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I am profoundly disappointed in the sudden decision to one month ago remove mask mandates from public-facing travel arenas such as airplanes.

I know some people like to pretend that it’s over, but it’s not. Infection rates and hospitalization rates are both rising, according to the CDC’s tracker.

Anecdotally, I know people getting COVID who have already been infected in the past, as well as those getting it for the first time. You probably do too. According to The New York Times, the U.S. is averaging more than 105,000 cases per day, bringing us up to some of the highest levels of infection since February, and hospitalizations are rising too.

Who does this one travel mandate impact? Lots of people, it turns out.

Not every child can get vaccinated yet, though Pfizer’s vaccine is getting closer to being available. According to estimates at NPR, toddlers should be able to be vaccinated in early summer months. Of course, questions of access are always up in the air. And this still leaves newborns, and their parents and other family members, out in the cold.

There are people undergoing cancer treatments and other kinds of medical procedures whose immune systems are compromised. Chemotherapy is known to suppress the immune system, thus leaving chemo patients more vulnerable to a variety of infections. And people who either have or had cancer in the past are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 complications.

And those with autoimmune diseases, as well as the elderly population, continue to be extremely vulnerable, even with vaccines. Approximately 3% of the population in the U.S. is immunocompromised.

The lack of self-preservation is surprising.

Admittedly, I’m feeling selfishly disappointed that the travel mask mandate has been removed, because I was hoping to travel to see family this summer, including some who are high-risk, like my 93-year-old grandfather.

What’s unfortunate is that there’s a precedent for disregard for vulnerable populations. As the government moves to overturn Roe v. Wade, people are being given a message that says our lives don’t matter. Just as it’s shortsighted for a mostly-nondisabled population to disregard the various dangerous health effects of a global pandemic for everyone, it’s shortsighted for a population that’s not immediately at risk of dying from a dangerous pregnancy to assure the population that is at risk that it’ll be fine.

I can’t imagine how many people simply haven’t given thought to losing wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, co-workers, and community members to risky pregnancies, and might find out the hard way how common these issues are.

And similarly, I’m guessing a lot of people who think they’re in perfectly good health will find out the hard way just how fleeting and subjective “good health” is as the pandemic continues unabated.

All we had to do was choose to keep wearing a simple piece of fabric over half our faces when in public spaces. The more mask mandates we drop, the longer and worse we exacerbate the effects of the pandemic.

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Jeana Jorgensen

FOXY FOLKORIST Studied folklore under Alan Dundes at the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to earn her PhD in folklore from Indiana University. She researches gender and sexuality in fairy...