The easy thing to do for the Island boards of health would be to lift the indoor mask mandate. After all, cases are way down on the Vineyard, and the summer crowds are long gone.
But instead, the boards had a thoughtful conversation about the issue last Friday. They listened to two medical experts talk about the possibility of lifting the mask mandate, and then concluded, on their advice, that it was too soon.
The Island does check all the right boxes, it would seem. The number of infections is down. The summer crowds and workers are gone. Vaccination rates have been good, and now even 5- to 11-year-olds can start getting the vaccine.
Indeed, that’s all positive news.
However, we are headed into a busy time. Thanksgiving is a few weeks away, and then the holidays follow right after. There are a lot of events on the Island, including Christmas in Edgartown, that attract big crowds of visitors.
This is also a time of year when we’re all going to be indoors a lot more. Last week gave us the first taste of colder temperatures, and we even had the first frost of the season. It won’t be the last.
It’s best to continue to play it safe.
The mask mandates have been difficult for businesses, which are on the frontlines of enforcing them. While most customers comply, there are always a few who don’t, and sometimes they can be vocal about their disdain for the mandates, claiming that they are an affront to personal freedoms.
We have nearly two years of history to look at with COVID-19 to understand that this insidious disease has a way of coming back with variants that are even more contagious.
That’s why we support the forward thinking of the Island boards of health. Play it safe through the busy holidays, and then re-evaluate in January, when things will be much calmer on the Vineyard.
Masks have always been more about protecting others than ourselves. There are people among us who can’t get vaccinated — very young children and people with compromised immune systems. We can continue to do our part to keep them safe.
Wear a mask when you’re indoors in a public place. It’s the least you can do.