Soon, the masks come off

Masks are coming off soon, when previously many jurisdictions had required them in many indoor settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many want this. Many who also know about the term “endemicity” would also like to believe we have “immunity” and can get back to “normal.”

In Portland, Oregon’s Sellwood neighborhood, the masks are coming off already, indoors and outdoors, at most eating establishments.

Hey, as a person who yearns for social contact like millions of others, I would like to go back to that now-crowded, maskless wine bar in Sellwood near my home too. Personally, I won’t do that any time soon.

The reason is, the underlying SARS-CoV-2 virus and its mutations will remain prevalent and potentially a real public health concern, based on what current science tell us. But I’m not saying this. Professor Aris Katzourakis, of the Department of Zoology, at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, made this point in the Jan. 24, 2022 issue of Nature.

Rudy Owens, wearing two masks, on a flight in June 2021 from Seattle to St. Louis.

In his essay, “COVID-19: endemic doesn’t mean harmless,” published just before the Omicron surge began to fall in many countries, Katzourakis wrote: “There is a widespread, rosy misconception that viruses evolve over time to become more benign. This is not the case: there is no predestined evolutionary outcome for a virus to become more benign, especially ones, such as SARS-CoV-2, in which most transmission happens before the virus causes severe disease.”

Katzourakis, and other public health and scientific experts, are not rooting for one outcome or the other. They are just using science to provide an informed opinion, hopefully to keep people healthy. And if some people keep wearing masks, that is fine with me. I will likely be one of them. That is a decision we all will still be able to make, for reasons that make good scientific and health sense.