By Bud Herron
Those of us who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks, according to the Indiana Department of Health. (I am glad about this. I was vaccinated five months ago and the mask straps around my ears were beginning to give me callouses.)
This relaxation of the masking recommendations for those of us who have been vaccinated also gives me hope the pandemic truly is over — Delta variant or not.
When I look at the employees and customers in local stores, I can see that at least 90% of the people shopping or working have been vaccinated, since about nine out of 10 people are not wearing masks.
This is much more than the 70% vaccination rate experts have told us for many months would be needed to reach “herd immunity” — the point at which the virus is no longer able to spread.
Curiously, however, the Indiana Department of Health statisticians are not keeping up with this miraculous progress toward health and safety indicated by my mask counting.
Health department statistics continue to claim only about half of our county’s residents are vaccinated.
While they admit around 80% of those past 70 have been vaccinated, the health department says only about three out of 10 residents in their 20s and four out of 10 residents in their 30s and 40s have received the shot.
Can this be right? Any fool can just look around local big box stores and see plenty of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s moving about confidently without masks — presumably having been vaccinated.
Last week I saw a masked man in the grocery store and thanked him for having the good sense to protect himself and others. I added that I hoped he was picking up a few items for unvaccinated friends who cautiously stayed home because they can’t find their masks or don’t wear one for legitimate, non-political reasons.
He mumbled he had been vaccinated back in February and was just wearing the mask as extra precaution and out of concern for those who are still not vaccinated.
Once again I was puzzled and thought, “Who is he protecting? Nearly everyone here obviously has been vaccinated. You couldn’t sew all the masks in this store together and make a bikini for Minnie Mouse.”
I am glad Columbus and Bartholomew County residents are continuing to take the virus so seriously. In some other states, where vaccination levels are low, the new Delta variant is surging among the unvaccinated. And critical care cases are disproportionately increasing among young adults.
Bartholomew County health officials began seeing cases of the Delta variant locally nearly a month ago and warned the variant may surge here as well — unless more people step up to get vaccinated.
That’s why I am confident nearly all of the residents not wearing masks have been vaccinated. Surely no one wants to return to the shut-in/shut-down days we struggled through at the height of the pandemic.
Surely no one wants to watch our critical care units and our mortuaries fill up with friends and loved ones as they did in 2020.
With the advent of the vaccines, our community doesn’t have to be at the mercy of the virus to the degree it was a year ago. Yet, I must admit it is possible (my wife says highly probable) my assumption about all those unmasked people in our stores having been vaccinated could be a bit of an overreach.
So, just in case a few people are simply ignoring the recommendations and the Department of Health statistics are more accurate than my mask counting, you probably should go ahead and get a shot, if you haven’t already.
The vaccinations have proved to be overwhelmingly safe and extremely effective in protecting against the virus — even the new Delta variant.
Go get the shot. It is the right thing to do — for your family, for your friends, for your community and for yourself.