Your comments on the confusing pictures reminds me of the way I always have to look up the laundry symbols on my clothes. I've also had to contact support for my washer and dryer (is "delicate" slower agitation or shorter agitation? Is "heavy" for heavy clothing or heavy soil? Is "easy care" hotter than "delicates"? What temp is "timed dry?") I don't want to know what some engineer guy thinks is good for my clothes, I want to know what's physically happening inside those barrels.

The other problem with the CDC graphical messaging is that it doesn't really include distancing. For the entire Covid period people losing friends and neighbors over vehement "mask AND distance" vs. "mask OR distance" arguments. (Maybe we've at least arrived at a kind of scolding fatigue and will just give it up for awhile.)

Finally, thanks for the realistic listing/prioritizing of our reasons for wearing masks. For me, protecting myself has always been #1. Since I've been so, so careful (easy when you're retired), the probability of me making someone else sick has always seemed pretty low. Now that I'll be traveling fully vaccinated, visiting kids, that probability will rise a bit. But now that I've finally got genuine, U.S. manufactured, comfortable N-95s, tightened glasses and shorter hair, mask-wearing is ironically a lot easier now.

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Thanks for the post, Zeynep, and for the Atlantic piece which I read and enjoyed. I take your points about the communication blunders. How many categories should that CDC chart have though? Would a fair representation of your positions be:

1) vaccinated - don't worry about masks unless you want

2) unvaccinated, outdoors and distanced - don't worry about masks unless you want

3) unvaccinated, outdoors and talking closely - put a mask on

4) unvaccinated, indoors - put a mask on

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Thanks for fighting the good fight on outdoor masking!

Have you thought about when you'll start writing about goal posts for ending indoor mask mandates? This whole year, you've played such an essential role in getting conversations started before public opinion shifts in the directions needed. I'm seeing a bit more openness to recognizing that vaccines do, actually, give us our lives back amongst the left-liberals who've been most resistant to that messaging, but the ethical/democratic/social value of stranger intimacy still plays no role in these conversations.

For those of us who live in and love New York, how do we make that part of our lives again? Proof of vaccination? % vaccinated? I'll likely have to get revaccinated as the Excelsior Pass doesn't recognize my first vaccination and there's no way to correct the record, but if that's what it takes...

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Hey Zeynep! Love your work and Insight! Anyway, curious if you have thoughts on how this whole outdoors mask debate might relate to those of us with small kids. I've had a couple of outdoor playdates in the past couple of days since the new guidance has been released, and everyone stayed masked up, I think in large part due to habit, but also because the guidance just doesn't seem to address *children*.

They're obviously not vaccinated, though all the adults are either fully vaxxed or nearing the 2-week-post-2nd-shot date. And my (only mildly well-informed) take on things leans towards the idea that kids aren't great social distancers, and that they'll be fairly close to each other for fairly long stretches of time during a play date, so... keep masks on?

On the other side of the coin, if even that is perhaps too cautious--if there is decent evidence to support the idea that being unmasked, outside, in close proximity but not in a 'crowd' is minimally risky--my kids and I would be delighted to have the ability to see friends' faces!

I guess I'm just frustrated along with you that the CDC guidelines are... just ok, and not as clear or forthright as they could be. And I personally think having some guidance aimed directly at families, many of whom are wondering exactly what I am, would be good!


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I’m delighted you’re experiencing security theater at the same time as hygiene theater. Equally effective. Equally comforting to the bewildered.

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I almost got run over by a dude on a Vespa this morning. He blew through a stop sign, not paying attention at all, because he was buckling his helmet with one hand while steering with the other. But at least he had a blue surgical mask properly affixed over his nose and mouth. 🙄

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Yep, definitely watch the Trevor Noah rant, but read the articles for such as "...this part of the empirical record is still evolving.." and other great takes on life as it is currently lived.

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I found the Atlantic article confusing because, while it was clear that you didn't like the CDC recommendations, after reading it, I wasn't sure which recommendations you thought were wrong and what better recommendations would look like.

In particular, I thought the complaint from Linsey Marr about being unable to memorize the CDC charts to be a bit unfair. The idea isn't to memorize everything, it's to read the chart, think about which recommendations are personally relevant to you, and adjust your habits if it makes sense. This seems true of pretty much all COVID advice? How often are we memorizing things? Public health campaigns seem similar to other ad campaigns in that they depend on repetition for ideas to sink in?

Also, making things less binary would probably make them still more complex and harder to remember, if that's the goal.

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I see "fully vaccinated" is getting a good run. The trope will be binned, quietly, in less than 12 months when it becomes difficult to explain why it did not mean "fully protected" (in the sense of, say, measles vaccination). Who generated "fully vaccinated", anyway?

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I have found listening to comments by Rochelle Walensky extremely frustrating. We seem to have little understanding of risk in the USA and her presentations do not help. When you compare various CDC warnings re risks- for example- J and J and being vaccinated yet being told to mask indoors- I think about how much more risk we face every time we get into an automobile or someone purchases a gun.. Is this lack of understanding of risk/benefit a particularly American phenomena or is it pretty universal?

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