Should people continue to social distance and wear masks until we have a vaccine?
- A safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 could be ready as early as the end of 2020.
- According to the FDA, face masks “... may not provide protection from fluids or may not filter particles, needed to protect against pathogens, such as viruses. They are not for surgical use and are not considered personal protective equipment.”
- According to a recent Gallup poll, one-third of Americans would not get a COVID-19 vaccine if it were free, FDA-approved, and ready today.
- The reason social distancing includes staying six feet away from others is, according to experts, because it is “...the average distance that respiratory droplets from a sneeze or cough travel before they settle and are no longer likely to be inhaled by other people.”
As disheartening as it is to hear, COVID-19 is not going to disappear any time soon. Unlike its close cousin, the SARS virus, it will likely never be completely eradicated and will return to communities in waves.
And if a deadly second wave of COVID-19 does come around, analysts believe global economies would not be able to handle it. For this reason, we must take every precaution we can to ensure we minimize the severity of future waves until a vaccine emerges.
Throughout the battle against COVID-19, we’ve found wearing masks and adopting social distancing practices to be extremely powerful in controlling the pandemic’s spread. The evidence is remarkably clear. We know that COVID-19 transmits via droplets. And we know that staying a distance from other people and wearing the correct masks appropriately as a precaution can help protect us from the virus. It also prevents us from spreading these droplets if we become infected. So with such effective, undisruptive forms of protection against the virus available, why would we not want to make use of it?
And while we do hope that a vaccine will be developed soon, it may take longer than expected. Infectious disease experts have said they are “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine will be available by the end of this year; however, it still would only be widely distributed to Americans sometime in 2021. And it’s important to note that health officials warn that “there’s no guarantee any vaccine will work.”
That said, we cannot continue to live upon false hope. We must learn to live with the threat of COVID-19 and adapt in every way we can.
It appears that we have an unwelcome new traveler with us here on earth: the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Research seems to point toward our learning how to manage, mitigate, and live with this virus, rather than actually being able to eradicate it. Given this premise, it should not become a matter of legislation or government fiat how and for whom compliance should be enforced across the broad population. There are people in high-risk groups, as well as those working in occupations that necessitate close-contact, who should continue to wear masks, but for the majority of us, it should be a matter of common sense and risk-aversion.
Assuming it’s correct that COVID-19 is not going away, we must find ways to begin developing ‘herd-immunity’ to it. It’s unclear how long antibodies will protect people from getting sick, so we must start allowing people’s autonomy and self-responsibility to move us in the direction of immunity. It’s unreasonable to think of continuing to utilize masks or social distancing for the foreseeable future. Still, as of yet, even if we can develop a vaccine, its effectiveness and permanence is uncertain.
Undoubtedly, there will be some who won’t make the best decisions for minimizing the transmission of the virus, but this does not merit government intervention. Governor Cuomo’s executive order to rescind New York restaurants’ liquor licenses for insufficient social-distancing is a good example of why it would be detrimental to have government regulation in this arena.
Unfortunately, it seems COVID-19 is here to stay. Therefore we must wash our hands, get our vitamin-D, and do our individual best to minimize our susceptibility to it.