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Some Aren't Ready to Give Up Masks     05/16 09:55

   

   (AP) -- Like more than 120 million other Americans, Jan Massie is fully 
vaccinated against COVID-19 and can pretty much give up wearing a mask under 
the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But 
she's still covering her face, even as the temperature rises in her native 
Alabama, because of benefits she says are too great to give up.

   The retired educator didn't catch the illness caused by the new coronavirus, 
and she also didn't get the flu or her twice-yearly colds while masked during 
the pandemic. Unlike some, she's not gotten any hostile blowback in public for 
wearing a mask. So why quit now?

   "I've worn a mask where it really wasn't required," Massie, who lives in 
suburban Birmingham, said Saturday. "Many people, more than I expected, still 
are, too."

   With COVID-19 cases on the decline after more than 580,000 deaths and with 
more than a third of the U.S. population fully vaccinated, millions are 
deciding whether to continue wearing face masks, which were both a shield 
against infection and a point of heated political debate over the last year. 
People have myriad reasons for deciding to stop, or continuing to wear, a mask.

   Many are ready to put aside the sadness, isolation and wariness of the 
pandemic. Ditching face masks -- even ones bedazzled with sequins or sports 
team logos -- is a visible, liberating way to move ahead. Yet others are still 
worried about new virus variants and the off-chance they might contract the 
virus and pass it along to others, though the risks of both are greatly reduced 
for those who are fully vaccinated.

   Denise Duckworth was among the unmasked as she strolled through a revived 
French Quarter in New Orleans, where jazz musicians and tourists have returned 
to the streets.

   "I've always been against masks, and I think all their rules have been 
hypocritical, and they've been confusing," said Duckworth, visiting from Kansas 
City, Missouri.

   Like most others, Duckworth wasn't wearing a face mask on an upbeat Friday 
that made the Quarter feel more normal than it had in months. Alex Bodell of 
Ithaca, New York, stood out in the crowd because of the black mask covering his 
nose and face, but he was more at ease that way.

   "I certainly feel a lot more comfortable, and I think I'm enjoying myself a 
lot more here being fully vaccinated and feeling that, you know, kind of 
regardless of my mask that I'm covered," he said.

   The CDC last week said fully vaccinated people -- those who are two weeks 
past their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine -- can quit wearing masks outdoors 
in crowds and in most indoor settings and give up social distancing. Partially 
vaccinated or unvaccinated people should continue wearing masks, the agency 
said.

   The guidance still calls for masks in crowded indoor settings including 
buses, airplanes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters. But it clears a 
path toward reopening workplaces, schools and other venues that went dark 
during the pandemic.

   Maskless during an outdoor event in Fargo, North Dakota, college student 
Andrew Kodet said he's been immunized and will follow the CDC guidelines.

   "If you've been vaccinated and you've put the effort into it to avoid 
spreading the disease, it's about time to begin this rebuilding process," said 
Kodet, 20. "There is nothing political about it with me."

   Near Boston in Cambridge, Massachusetts, epidemiologist Vanessa Li isn't 
past the two-week point of her second vaccine dose and is continuing to wear 
her mask even outside, particularly when lots of other people are around.

   "I guess I am hesitant to take it off because it's been such a habit and 
internationally there's been different strains and different risk levels," said 
Li, 25, of Somerville. "Global travel is picking up and it's still prevalent, 
so I'm not really sure how at risk everyone is at the moment."

   Wearing a mask as he made an espresso at his coffee shop in San Francisco, 
Justin Lawrence said he's got to comply with local rules that mandate facial 
coverings for indoor activities.

   "It puts small businesses in the place of having to police people all over 
again, and you can't tell by looking at somebody that they've been vaccinated," 
said Lawrence, who co-owns Fayes Coffee in the Mission District.

   The decision to continuing wearing a mask came down to uncertainty for Evan 
Mandel. Both vaccinated and masked as he waited outside to enter the Art 
Institute of Chicago, Mandel said there are enough questions that he avoids 
joggers who are breathing heavily and could send particles carrying the virus 
that much further.

   "I still hold my breath or get off to the side," he said.

   And then there are rules. Andy Lamparter wore a mask at Saturday's Preakness 
Stakes in Baltimore, where Pimlico Race Course required them amid a sharply 
reduced crowd of 10,000 people, but he wasn't too happy about it. "It's 
annoying because I do have my shots," he said.

   Raquel Mitchell recovered from a bout of COVID-19 in December and is adamant 
against getting a vaccine, which she doesn't trust because of the quick 
development. She's still wearing a mask and taking other precautions, like 
dining outdoors at restaurants near her home in New York's East Harlem area and 
either asking for plastic utensils or bringing her own.

   When will she feel it's safe enough to ease up?

   "I don't know. Never," said Mitchell. "It's going to be really difficult for 
me."

 
 
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