Why these Ann Arborites keep wearing masks despite new health guidelines

ANN ARBOR, MI – A few weeks after receiving her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Lisamarie Babik was delighted to visit her fully vaccinated best friend, whom she had only seen once in the past year due to the pandemic.

“I was without a mask and we kept looking at each other and panicking a little because we weren’t wearing our masks,” said Babik.

Babik, who lives in Ann Arbor, said she was pretty cautious before COVID but still managed to catch a cold or two. She attributes masks and increased hand washing to her 14 months of health, adding that without personal protection, she may never feel comfortable in large public settings again.

“Given the number of anti-maskers and anti-COVID vaxers, I don’t know I’ll ever feel 100% safe again,” said Babik. “I have a complicated medical history and COVID is going to kill me. Is it worth wearing a mask when I go to a grocery store or stop at Target to stay alive? I think it is. “

For Babik and other Ann Arbor residents, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidelines are not enough to make them feel safe without a mask.

Michigan, to follow CDC guidelines, no masks for vaccinated people indoors; Full face mask mandate until the end of July 1

As of May 14, Michigandans are not required to wear a mask in any outdoor setting. Those who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to wear a mask indoors, while those who have not been fully vaccinated will continue to wear a face covering indoors until July 1.

Ann Arbor-resident Laurent Stanovich, who is fully vaccinated and still wearing a mask, whether recommended or required, admits he’s torn about how many times he’ll wear a mask in the future.

Stanovich is not as concerned about his health as he is about unvaccinated members of the public who may be vulnerable to the continued spread of the virus.

“If I firmly believe that unvaccinated people – like me – should still wear masks indoors, it is only reasonable to assume that I could at least accept and model the same behavior.”

On the flip side, Stanovich said he understood the frustration that could emanate from those who “got it right,” like him and the rest of his fully vaccinated family members during the pandemic.

“Why do I have to wear a mask when states are now rejecting vaccines?” he said. “Part of me feels, ‘Why do I still have to wear a mask to uselessly shame all these people who have now purposely put their own lives at risk?’

His feelings might be different. Stanovich said if he lived in an area where he was still interacting with people who might prefer to be vaccinated but not yet vaccinated.

“But I live in Ann Arbor,” said Stanovich.

Vaccines are widely available to Washtenaw County’s residents through the health department, health systems, and retail pharmacies. While 83.4% of residents aged 65 and over were fully vaccinated, 56.3% of residents aged 16 and over received both shots, and 47% of the population aged 12 to 64 in Washtenaw County received both shots.

Public health officials have said that unvaccinated people should adhere to the “honor system” and wear a mask in all public facilities. While the vaccine provides protection from serious illness for most people, officials have also advised that some vaccinated people with compromised immune systems may want to keep wearing masks because they may not be able to fight COVID-19 or other infections .

While the number of reported COVID-19 cases in Washtenaw County has decreased since a surge in April, the virus is still spreading. But now, the county’s health officials said they see the difference between those hardest hit.

“We all know we are not getting the speed we need to stop the virus from spreading, but we do see differences in who is affected. We see with this last wave that there is a difference between people in the hospital, which is good news for vaccination effectiveness, ”said Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, spokeswoman for the Washtenaw County Department of Health.

Because it’s still floating around, the virus is now finding unvaccinated people who are the most vulnerable, Ringler-Cerniglia said.

For Megan Molleron, her mask won’t be removed until her young children, who have been home to school since March last year, are fully vaccinated, she said. Since the vaccine is only available to children aged 12 and over, she said she would not take any chances.

“I plan to still wear a mask everywhere. I have a 6 year old and a 3 year old, ”she said.

Molleron, whose husband owns the New York Pizza Depot, said the restaurant is adhering to its customer mask guidelines for the time being.

“I am very concerned until everyone is vaccinated,” said Mölleron.

Chicago transplants Ashley Stroessler and Joe Schmaling say they will continue to wear masks as it is the easiest way to protect the unvaccinated and those with compromised immune systems.

“I’m a social worker and I’ve seen the impact COVID has on the communities I work in and I just don’t want to be part of the problem,” Stroessler said.

Schmaling will continue to wear masks outdoors in public places, although he sees this as “mixed messaging” for the CDC.

“I understand just being out and about, just being in the sunshine, nice weather, when the CDC guidelines state that (a mask is) no longer necessary,” said Schmaling. “I think people get tired of this mixed news and people have developed personal policies.”

Stroessler and Schmaling recently moved to Ann Arbor from Chicago and said the two communities are similar in terms of mask wearing.

“It’s like switching from one bubble to the next,” said Stroessler.

READ MORE FROM THE ANN ARBOR NEWS:

Parents’ petition calls on Ann Arbor public schools to resume school-age childcare

Michigan teases “taking even bigger steps to get back to normal” according to the latest guidelines from CDC

Doctors and mothers recommend the COVID-19 vaccine to help bring the children back to normal lives

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