A couple of days ago, the Center for Disease Control updated its COVID prevention guidance to say that fully vaccinated people can now do most of the things they did pre-pandemic without out wearing a face covering or distancing, while people who are not yet fully vaccinated should continue to wear their masks and take all other recommended precautions to prevent infection.

This is good news because since the start of this COVID mess, the general precautions were the only things we had to function in public situations and improve the odds of avoiding infection, and they were not very reliable. It means that for fully vaccinated people, the pandemic is practically over.

For some, however, the lifting of the mask and social distancing guidance for fully vaccinated people has raised more questions than answers, such as how to tell who is vaccinated and who is not. But I think that the idea of accidentally blending vaccinated and unvaccinated people in maskless situations is being largely overthought.

Once upon a time, using non-pharmaceutical interventions like wearing a mask and keeping distant for interaction with others in public were all we had to help prevent the spread of infection, and these measures were taken in a collective sense, mostly to protect others should one become unknowingly infected.

Now that COVID vaccines are readily available for nearly every age group, generally free of charge and easy to get, infection prevention has shifted away from collective responsibility to individual personal choice. Most people who don’t get vaccinated are making a choice about COVID prevention that is entirely personal and, unlike before vaccines were available, it’s a choice that is not likely to impact the public at large in a post-vaccinated world.

More than half of the people I know who have contracted COVID have ended up hospitalized and experienced physical suffering on a level that I would not wish on my worst enemy; and for the sake of humanity, unvaccinated people putting themselves at risk by trying to blend with others not wearing masks is a sad situation to contemplate. But society, that has done everything possible to collectively prevent needless suffering and death from COVID, stops at the water’s edge. If someone chooses to not step into the water and benefit from preventive measures that are available to them, there’s not much that can be done for them. At least they can no longer impact the unwilling with their risky behavior and that’s a good thing.

I became fully vaccinated a week ago. On that day, I felt much better mentally than I have since the start of the pandemic. It’s quite a relief to understand that the future isn’t quite as tentative as it had once seemed with my expectations of getting sick and spending my last month or so on earth alone and unconscious reset back to pre-pandemic levels.

As for the mask, I think I will probably still wear mine for the time being. I understand that it cannot not offer the kind of protection a vaccine can and the point that any benefit I get from continuing to wear them is likely minimal. The difference will be that I probably will not wear the four-layer ones with gauze in the pocket. I’ll go back to the two-layered masks that are easier to breathe in, and I probably will not be as worried about who is around me and what they are doing in my personal space. I will try to go back to living life instead of existing thought it. It will take some time for me to get there. But I will get there.