As a 27-year-old myself, I would not assume the average maskless 27-year-old walking through Harvard Square has been fully vaccinated. Vaccination just recently became open to all adults in the state, and some young adults have expressed vaccine hesitation. More pointedly, tons of people in this area have been going maskless since well before the vaccine was accessible.

We have a few months to go before we reach ideal vaccination levels. For the sake of at-risk community members’ peace of mind, I’m happy to wear my mask outdoors and in non-intimate indoor environments for a little while longer. I have to carry it with me anyway, as there are still a number of places and settings that require masks. I’ll admit, it’s also not worth the skeptical stares. It’s a harmless step I can take to make members of my community more comfortable as we work to restitch the social fabric the pandemic tore.

I believe not ditching the mask immediately will make my community safer. This is not because I don’t trust the CDC to make scientifically supported public health recommendations. The CDC makes policy calculations with hundreds of millions of actors in mind. This does not mean they wouldn’t prefer to granularly target policies to certain regions and demographics, or that doing so wouldn’t be more productive for public health outcomes. Again, their obstacles are social and political, not purely scientific.

While the CDC may not be able to target pandemic recommendations at the individual level, I know what level of compliance I can tolerate in conjunction with what the science suggests. I know that I’m in a position to do more than the bare minimum, and I know that social science (and simple logic) tells us that fewer vaccinated people wearing masks will most likely lower compliance among unvaccinated people. If vaccinated people continue to wear a mask in public, unvaccinated people may continue to comply, making everyone safer.

This is not about eternally virtue signaling liberal pandemic politics, but rather acknowledging that our actions influence each other.

And still, I understand that it’s been an impossibly hard and inconvenient year. I understand if you are tired of wearing a mask and are overdue to breathe in fresh air, unobstructed and in public, the very first second you can.

That may be your best. That may be what is right for you. Don’t shame me for doing the same.

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This content was originally published here.

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