Masks and the honor system
The new mask rules from the C.D.C. amount to an honor system of sorts, where only unvaccinated people are expected to keep wearing masks in most places. But many Americans are wondering whether they can trust others to do the right thing.
In social psychology, there’s a well-established principle that a common enemy is supposed to bring people together. But shortly after the pandemic arrived, the U.S. saw a partisan divide over masks, screaming crowds outside state capitols and death threats against health officials.
It quickly became apparent that, even in a crisis, Americans were finding it difficult to come together. So it’s no wonder that the federal government’s new mask guidance has been greeted with reluctance — especially when fewer than half of Americans over 12 are fully vaccinated.
Celeste, a newsletter reader from Dayton, Ohio, wrote in with her own experience.
“The first day of The Great Unmasking at work went exactly as you’d expect: people who have previously bragged about not being vaccinated walking around without masks on,” she wrote. “Assuming people would act unselfishly to protect others goes against everything we’ve seen so far this pandemic.”
The C.D.C. is also asking Americans to trust one another at a time when faith in institutions and their neighbors is particularly fragile. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center report on Trust and Distrust in America, trust in the federal government was near record lows, and seven in 10 people said they thought that Americans’ trust in one another had declined over the past 20 years.
Eli Finkel, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, who has studied romantic relationships and American politics, said that trusting one another inherently involved a gamble — whether it is letting your guard down in a marriage, or trusting the behavior of fellow citizens during a pandemic. But in the case of the coronavirus, the benefit of trust — and widespread honesty — would be a collective freedom from the pandemic restrictions. But so far, it seems, Americans haven’t made that leap.
“It’s almost like American society has crossed the Rubicon of distrust,” Finkel said. “Even those things that should bring us together don’t, and even push us further apart.”
Opinion: Three experts offer advice on when to wear masks now.
India’s doctors face trauma
As the pandemic rages in India, the country’s doctors and medical responders are paying a tremendous price.
More than 1,000 doctors have died from Covid since the pandemic hit last year, with one quarter of those dying since the beginning of April 2021 alone, according to the Indian Medical Association. Experts estimate that at least 40 percent of doctors have been infected.
Indian medical workers are generally under-resourced and underfunded. India’s health care spending totals about 3.5 percent of its gross domestic product, less than half of the global average. Distressingly, doctors and medical workers also face intimidation and violence just for doing their jobs. In recent weeks, videos have circulated of angry family members of patients beating members of the medical staff in hospital halls covered in blood, or of local strongmen bullying and scolding them.
Beyond the physical danger they face, doctors have been forced by the devastating size of the outbreak to make decisions day after day that could determine whether a patient lives or dies — and the emotional toll is mounting.
“All your life you prepare yourself to exhaust every option to save a patient, but imagine when you have to prioritize?” said Dr. Mradul Kumar Daga, a professor of medicine at the largest Covid-designated hospital in New Delhi. “Those are the most heartbreaking decisions as a doctor you have to make. And that is what has happened in the last three weeks of my life.”
The European Union drug regulator recommended extending the time that the Pfizer vaccine can be stored at refrigerator temperatures.
In Italy, island playgrounds like Capri got first dibs on vaccines.
The U.S. has promised 80 million vaccine doses to other countries, but experts say it isn’t nearly enough.
The Watchful. The Cost-Anxious. System Disrupters. Covid Skeptics. The Times Opinion section looked at the four types of people who are holding the U.S. back from full vaccination.
What else we’re following
What you’re doing
I have volunteered to give Covid vaccines at a mass vaccination site. Yesterday I wasted 10 Covid vaccines because we couldn’t find enough arms to put them in. Haves and have-nots? Absolutely. My family in Guatemala can’t get vaccines and here I am, in the U.S., putting them in the trash.
— Linda Albrecht, Bristol, Conn.
Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.
Email your thoughts to email@example.com.