Comment: With vaccine success, why are masks still mandated?

Masks can’t be doing much good anymore, yet they are turning up as trash in the ocean.

By Adriana Cohen / syndicated columnist

Now that the Biden administration has achieved the impressive milestone of 200 million Americans getting vaccinated in his first 100 days in office, it’s time to lift all remaining mask mandates.

If you’ll recall, at the outset of the pandemic, we were told by Dr. Anthony Fauci that we needed just 15 days to “flatten the curve” and to protect frontline health care workers from getting the coronavirus. We were told the goal was to protect the most vulnerable citizens from getting the virus. Now, over a year later, we’ve not only achieved that primary objective, but we’ve surpassed it in spades; with as many as 3 million Americans getting vaccinated daily.

So, why hasn’t the Biden administration lifted the face mask mandate given the fact that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 95 percent effective and over 80 percent of Americans 65 and older have already gotten the shot?

Reinfection is very rare for both those who’ve been vaccinated and those who have natural immunity from already having covid-19 and developing antibodies to it. According to a study published in The Lancet in April, “previous infection with SARS-CoV-2 induces effective immunity to future infections in most individuals.” The study was based on the evaluation of 25,661 hospital workers throughout England from June 18, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020. It found that those with “a previous history of SARS-CoV-2 infection was associated with an 84 percent lower risk of infection.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states, “Vaccine breakthrough cases occur in only a small percentage of vaccinated persons. To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in the case demographics or vaccine characteristics among people with reported vaccine breakthrough infections.”

But that’s not all. The CDC also reports that, as of April 13, more than 75 million Americans had been fully vaccinated against covid-19 since Dec. 14, yet during that time the CDC received only 5,814 reports of vaccine breakthrough infections. That’s just 0.08 percent. So again, why are citizens still being forced to cover their faces in public?

And who are we protecting exactly when the most vulnerable among us are already protected?

Perhaps a White House reporter can ask Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki that question while she conducts her daily televised press briefings unmasked. I’m quite certain there are many Americans who want to know why high-ranking officials in the Biden administration are allowed on federal property without masks but not taxpayers who fund their salaries.

That said, masks aren’t just an inconvenience for those of us who want to breathe freely or those who desperately miss seeing our friends, neighbors and fellow humans smiling faces, which have been hidden from view for over a year. Studies have shown that masks are wreaking havoc on the environment.

Last December, OceansAsia, a Hong Kong-based marine conservation organization, estimated that 1.56 billion masks entered oceans in 2020, causing an additional 4,680 to 6,240 metric tons of marine plastic pollution being dumped into the oceans, contaminating waterways, choking marine life and other devastating effects to ecosystems. With mask mandates still in effect in many states throughout the U.S. and around the world, the profound harm to marine life and the environment continues.

The inconvenient truth is disposable masks are made of plastics that break down into microplastics that end up poisoning fish that humans then eat. “It is noted that face masks are easily ingested by higher organisms, such as fishes, and microorganisms in the aquatic life which will affect the food chain and finally chronic health problems to humans,” says the National Institute of Health. “As a result, microplastics from the face mask should be a focus worldwide.”

Perhaps Fauci, who leads the NIH, should be reading his own website before recommending Americans wear two masks, not one.

“Not only are plastics polluting our oceans and waterways and killing marine life; it’s in all of us and we can’t escape consuming plastics,” said Marco Lambertini of the World Wildlife Fund.

Bottom line: Masks are harming the environment. Why no outcry from Democrats pushing the Green New Deal? Do they only care about plastic straws entering the ocean and plastic water bottles; not billions of masks?

With Earth Day just passed, say it ain’t so.

Adriana Cohen is a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate.

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