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Waning pandemic worries leave many Americans uncertain of path ahead

To mask or not to mask – that is the question

Americans were initially told that 70 percent herd immunity was the prerequisite of returning to “normal life.” Now with only half of the nation vaccinated, the decision has been made that it’s safe to go back into the proverbial waters of societal interactions. Some say it’s long overdue relief. Some say it seems like too much too soon.

On one hand, few scientists and researchers saw the development of a vaccine occurring in less a year or two years. That brought the grim forecast of two million potential deaths from COVID-19 on one grim newscast less than a year ago. The most optimistic pundits saw the chance of vaccinations beginning by summer of 2021 and recovery coming in 2022.

The speed at which the vaccine was developed was not only startling to most observers, it was downright frightening. If done at the behest of the past corruption-riddled administration, the immediate question became, “Could these injections be trusted.” Even more suspicion surfaced when the 45 administration decided to first target minorities and the poor.

This immediately revived morbid reflection of the scandalous Tuskegee medical experimentation that misused unsuspecting Black men, treated as guinea pigs for venereal disease research. In the experiment one group received medication while others were provided placebos. The resulting death of innocent, uninformed African Americans remains a deep scar on the health legacy of this nation.

But you don’t have to travel through time to pinpoint disparate healthcare for Black Americans.

It is matter of record, documented by countless reliable sources – both outside and within the health industry – that in virtually every area of healthcare, there is widespread and ongoing evidence of African Americans receiving inferior, uncompassionate or incompetent diagnoses, treatment, medication, and even surgical procedures.

The systemic racism that plagues every corner of this nation does not escape the medical industry. There are gross inadequacies and inconsistencies that impact Black people of every level of education, income, religious and political belief. These too are among the reasons that create pause for Blacks when they weigh health options.

At this point, the effectiveness of vaccinations is irrefutable. Reliable science verifies that those who complete required vaccines only have a .0006 percent chance of getting the virus. And if a person manages to contract coronavirus despite those tremendous odds, the risk of their becoming severely ill or hospitalized is virtually nil. The chance of dying from it is even less.

So we got the word over the last few weeks that masks are no longer REQUIRED indoors or out; that rather than six feet of separation, people need only be three feet apart; that students can return safely to the classroom; that businesses and retail operations no longer need to impose restrictions on workers or consumers, that the worst is over.

No one saw this coming this soon. Though pleasantly surprised, some still wonder if the celebration is premature. The Center for Disease Control says vaccinated people can feel safe among each other. The problem becomes no one is sure who got the required shots and who didn’t. And even if the risks of the extent of suffering for those vaccinated is all but eliminated, there is still a chance of contracting asymptomatic COVID -19 and unknowingly passing it to others.

Here are some truths to ponder. People who live or work in rural areas have a higher risk of hospitalization and death from coronavirus as these are the areas that lag substantially behind the rest of the country in vaccinations.

As of this week, 60 percent of Americans 18 and older have had at least the first of two required vaccine shots. Only 49 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. It still requires 70 to 85 percent to reach herd immunity. Eighty percent of rural residents live in what is described as “medically underserved areas.”

In April, a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that three in 10 of rural residents insist that they will “definitely not” take the vaccine unless required by law. These stubborn Americans will be in line with you at the grocery store, taking your information in government buildings, providing retail goods and working in the service industry in your face.

One significant point of inclusion in this discussion is that people with compromised immune systems should consult with doctors before going unmasked publicly, even if they have the vaccine. If your risk is greater, your path forward should be one that shuns fear but embraces caution and sound practices.

For the most part, the vaccine is a dependable shield against the worst possible outcomes of coronavirus. For those who suffered the virus over the past year, for those who went through it with friends or relatives, for those who suffered losses, this is a monumental step forward any way you look at it. Perhaps the most important caveat is to move forward carefully and prayerfully.

Doing so does not reflect lack of faith in the Lord. Almighty God who created all things in heaven and earth is responsible for every scientific advancement as well as the expertise of every researcher and medical professional. When you adhere to science, you are functioning in the grace of God. The two are not mutually exclusive. They work hand in hand for prospects of healthy living.

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION  by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].

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