Why is Everyone in LA Still Wearing Masks?
Is there some sort of secret club I don’t know about?
LA County closed down 15 months ago on March 13th. I’ll never forget it, because I left my job of 32 years a week before the shutdown. I had all sorts of plans that were unceremoniously shuttered a week to the day later. It was a devasting 15 months for many Californians, but finally we were being offered a slice of hope and freedom again.
On Tuesday, June 15th, all restrictions were finally lifted to fully vaccinated California residents, which appears to be about 47% of the total population of the state. I will be forever grateful to and in awe of the heroic scientists who worked tirelessly in their labs to give us this amazing gift of a vaccine so quickly.
I was giddy upon awakening that morning of the 15th, and decided to celebrate by going to my nearest REI to buy some workout clothes. I joyfully walked inside, maskless, halfway expecting some trumpets to blare. As I heading over to peruse the sports bras, I glanced around looking for beautiful exposed smiles, and was devastated to realize that EVERYONE in the store was wearing a mask. Am I being pranked? I thought. When I come out of the dressing room will everyone pop out and pull off their masks and say “gotcha!?”
As I continued to shop, I started to feel more and more paranoid, questioning every doctor’s and scientist’s assurance that I’m protected because I’m fully vaccinated. Not only I am protected, but the likelihood of me unknowingly spreading the virus to the unvaccinated is miniscule. I began glancing back at customers I passed from behind to see if they were masked and they all were! What is going on? Does everyone love wearing masks? Surely all these people can’t all be unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated. Perhaps this particular store is an anomaly. I will stop at Whole Foods, and surely bask in the maskless smiles in that store. That store was more of the same. The rest of the week has continued on that same path. Everywhere I go, everyone is wearing masks. I went to the carwash where everyone sits outside waiting for their car. It was 90+ degrees and people had on masks.
Today came the most surprising mask wearing encounter. A farmer’s market, that takes place entirely outdoors, was requiring masks for entry. Even my husband begrudgingly admitted to me that peer pressure forced him to don a mask in one particular store earlier in the week, so as not to stand out.
These past 15 months, my husband and I had obediently followed all our state guidelines, and even waited 8 hours in a line to get our first vaccine. We completely respected all efforts to keep everyone safe. We wore masks everywhere, not only to protect ourselves, but to protect others. We stayed home except for mandatory outings. We hardly saw our adult children as the cases skyrocketed. But now we have a hall pass to begin to live our lives a bit more normally again, and it still feels like we’re back in October 2020.
In questioning all this, I started to think about the scars this pandemic has left us with. It has undoubtedly changed our lives forever. When, if ever, will we feel safe again? What after effects will remain permanently entrenched in our psyches? Only time will tell, but for now I intend to slowly, but confidently step into the world, one maskless outing at a time, with full respect and reverence for my fellow humans and what we have survived together. And always remember the ones who didn’t.