Editorial: Don’t throw your mask away yet

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Design by Grace Powell Photo credit: Grace Powell

Oliver Bennett

Finally, COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed in significant numbers across the city. With the FDA approving the single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson and New Orleans entering modified Phase Three, it seems as though the pandemic’s end is on the horizon. The thing is, even if you’re vaccinated, the pandemic isn’t over.

Vaccination can take a couple of weeks to become effective, and it’s still unknown if vaccinated people can still carry the virus. After a year of pandemic living, the same rules still ring true: wear a mask over your mouth and nose, remain socially distant, and reduce your contact with those outside of your household.

For many of you, it’s your last semester at Loyola. You want to party, make memories and enjoy all that New Orleans has to offer. But in these last few crucial months, it’s time to be real about vaccines and accountability.

The state of Louisiana recently expanded its vaccine eligibility, allowing those over 18 (16+ for Pfizer) with certain conditions such as obesity, diabetes, or a history of smoking to receive that vaccine. Despite the exciting news, we at The Maroon encourage you to keep following city guidelines— even if you’re vaccinated. We know that everyone’s tired of the pandemic and the rules, but according to the CDC, vaccinated people aren’t entirely protected until at least two weeks after their complete dose of the vaccination is administered.

It’s time to stop acting like things are normal again when the United States is nearing 540,000 deaths and less than 15% of the population is fully vaccinated. The harsh reality of the situation is this: while vaccines have been a cause for celebration, they’re still only available to select members of the population. Not everyone has access to the vaccine and not everyone will choose to get it.

The COVID-19 vaccines can effectively prevent the spread of the disease, but new variants in the virus leave more questions to be answered. While the vaccine protects against hospitalization and death, it’s still unclear if vaccinated individuals can be carriers of COVID. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two complete dosages with two weeks between shots. Having one round of the vaccine isn’t enough to fully protect you or those around you. Even the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires two weeks after it’s administered to become fully effective. The period between and after vaccine doses can feel like purgatory, but it’s still important to be cautious and mindful. If you’ve waited a year, you can wait two more weeks.

The six foot social distancing stickers in the Starbucks line and signs reminding us to wear masks have just become a part of daily life. But this isn’t an excuse to get sloppy. We’ve been in this pandemic too long for people to be making excuses about mask wearing and guideline compliance. Half masking isn’t enough, and the chinstrap mask looks ridiculous. The mask goes over your mouth and nose – not one or the other.

Capacity limits aren’t a suggestion, they’re a requirement. Elevators have limits. Listen to them. There’s no need to shove five people in an elevator with a limit of two. Dorm rooms also have limits, one of those preventing non-residential students from entering the buildings. Stop sneaking people in for a maskless, over capacity party in Beiver. If you want to hang out in bigger groups, take it across St. Charles to Audubon Park. We’ve been repeating these rules all year, so ignorance isn’t an excuse anymore.

If we ever want to get out of this pandemic, we need to keep taking it seriously. While vaccines are an effective safeguard, they aren’t the end all be all. We understand that you’re tired, and believe us, we are too. If we want The Boot back open until 6 a.m. and Wine Wednesdays at Bruno’s back, we need to keep doing our part.