A sign outside a Chipotle in Columbia states that all people entering the building must wear a mask and social distance. Photos by: Mary Claire Warren
In an interview with CNN late last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that it is entirely possible that United States citizens will have to continue to wear masks in 2022.
Fauci’s statement came just days after President Biden announced that the United States may return to normality by the end of this year as the coronavirus pandemic crisis eases. With the increasing amount of people getting vaccinated for COVID-19, Biden said he thinks there will be a significant decrease in the need for safety precautions, such as wearing masks and social distancing.
“I think a lot of people are under the impression that once we all have the vaccine, the whole pandemic just goes away,” said Jane Borrelli, a 21-year-old from Charlotte. “With these new variants, the vaccine might not even work anymore. I feel like we will be wearing masks for a long time; people need to be more realistic.”
Fauci’s statement also followed the news that the COVID-19 death toll had reached over 500,000 in the United States. Although recent trends showcase an overall decline in cases, Fauci remains uncertain if the statistics will stay that way.
One of the most pressing concerns officials have is new variants of the disease. If these variants continue to spread throughout the country, it could mean that the vaccines won’t protect recipients from contracting COVID-19.
At this point, vaccines are the main source of hope for the United States to return to normality.
Another one of Fauci’s concerns is the looming presence of “pandemic fatigue.” This phrase describes the feelings that many Americans have suffered since quarantine began last March. Fauci and other health officials are expecting many people to care less about taking precautions during the pandemic, due to its length.
“Once we all have the vaccine, I don’t understand why we would still need to wear masks,” said Emery Thompson, 34, of Cayce. “It’s bad enough that we’ve had to do this for nearly a year now. As soon as they say we can stop wearing masks, I’m taking this thing off.”
Officials worry that Americans may stop social distancing and wearing masks, in favor of getting back to how things used to be.
Although some people are beginning to feel the effects of pandemic fatigue, there are also many who agree with Fauci.
“Even if cases continue to go down and people get the vaccines, I think masks will continue to be a thing,” said Maggie Fletcher, a 22-year-old senior at UofSC. “I feel like wearing a mask to the store or on the bus will be normal for a lot of people even after the pandemic.”
21-year-old Jane Borrelli agrees with Fauci’s statement and thinks that masks will need to be worn throughout 2022.
A sign outside of Kroger supermarket in Columbia, stating that masks must be worn upon entry.
Maggie Fletcher, a senior at the University of South Carolina, believes that masks will be worn for many years following the peak of the pandemic.