Yes, I often wear a mask. No, not because I don't trust my vaccinations | Opinion

·5 min read

I'm going to assume that like me, you made up your mind a long time ago regarding mask-wearing.

So, I'm not trying to change your view. I don't have the time or patience. But based on the questions I get asked — some heartfelt, some too rude to share — it's clear there are still major gaps in understanding between those of us who wear masks and those of us who don't.

Let me try to bridge that gap from the perspective of someone who wears a mask and has largely done so for almost two years now.

For the record: Yes. I'm vaccinated. Double-vaccinated and boosted, as of a few months ago.

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Yes, I am still following the COVID-related advice of my doctor and the medical experts and health care angels who have kept so many of us alive as we face an unprecedented-in-our-lifetimes global pandemic.

And yes to the most-often-asked question: Indoors in public places, and in crowds outdoors, I still wear a mask.

FLORIDA TODAY columnist Britt Kennerly: "I'm wearing a mask for me. For my husband. But I'm also wearing this mask for her, for other strangers, for family and friends. I'm wearing it for and because of the unvaccinated, whatever their reason is for not getting a shot, whether it's medical, political or just plain stubbornness."
FLORIDA TODAY columnist Britt Kennerly: "I'm wearing a mask for me. For my husband. But I'm also wearing this mask for her, for other strangers, for family and friends. I'm wearing it for and because of the unvaccinated, whatever their reason is for not getting a shot, whether it's medical, political or just plain stubbornness."

I'll tell you why, but first, let me back up.

This time two years ago, many were just starting to hear about COVID though it was already killing people.

This time a year ago, I was answering phone calls from Brevard seniors — and from folks as as far away as the Panhandle — frantic about signing up for a shot they hoped could be life-saving.

Some weren't leaving their homes at all. Some cried. I told them: I will give you the best, most up-to-date information we have and in the meantime, you stay in touch with your doctor.

I wasn't old enough to be in the first round of shots. So, as I'd done since March 2020, I wore a mask. My husband did, too.

And so fast-forward to now, and those questions. I have left out the aforementioned rude ones, and the comment from someone who told me that a story I wrote about COVID deaths was a bag of excrement.

You're still wearing a mask: Why? Don't you trust your vaccinations?

I trust my vaccinations, especially to drastically lessen my chance of serious illness or death were I to become COVID-positive. Given the number of breakthrough cases, and the number of unvaccinated people out there, and the most recent positivity rates locally and statewide, I'm erring on the side of caution. And on the side of living through this.

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I stood at a local pharmacy not long ago, watching as a double-masked young woman, wearing a turban set over her obviously bald head and using a walker, picked up prescriptions. I don't know what illness she's facing. I am sure it's serious.

I'm wearing this mask for me. For my husband. But I'm also wearing this mask for her, for other strangers, for family and friends. I'm wearing it for and because of the unvaccinated, whatever their reason is for not getting a shot, whether it's medical, political or just plain stubbornness. I'm wearing it in the hopes of keeping hospital beds open for both those with COVID and those who need other medical care.

Why don't you just stay home if you're afraid?

Like everyone else on Earth, I don't want to stop living my life. And I am not afraid. There's a difference between being cautious and being afraid, just as stupid and ignorant are not synonymous.

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Don't breakthrough cases make you less confident about what those people you call experts are telling us?

No. My major was communications, not medicine. Virologists and infectious disease experts know more than do I about this virus and the precautions we should take. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of hospitalization or death in the unvaccinated population is much higher than for those of us who got the shots. I've seen this play out in real life and end in death. I'll take the experts' advice.

N95 masks offer top protection against COVID-19.
N95 masks offer top protection against COVID-19.

C'mon. You don't wear that mask all the time, do you?

I'm sure somewhere, there's surveillance video of me enjoying the cool breeze on my face at outdoor locations, from beaches to theme parks to store parking lots. My husband and I took off our masks for a picture at Walt Disney World just before Christmas. And to pose for photos with a Santa at a hockey game in Tampa. But those masks were back on our faces faster than you can say, "Jeez, there are a lot of people here and I am fairly sure that they're not all vaccinated."

Doesn't it bother you to be told you need to be vaccinated? To wear a mask? Or worse, that in some places, you must present proof of vaccination to enter?

No, not in the least. As one of the middle wave of boomers, I've been vaccinated for everything under the sun, especially since my grandmother was sure that if I so much as stubbed my toe, I'd wind up in an iron lung. Polio. Smallpox. My parents took me to the local health department to get every recommended vaccination at a time when social media wasn't around to instill fear and doubt in them. They trusted people who majored in medicine. I've had required shots to enter school; to travel.

So no, I don't mind being asked. I am alive. Millions of people can't say that, some dying before a vaccine was available and some, after refusing to take it.

And finally, my own question.

Will this column change one person's mind about wearing a mask?

No. I'm confident that several people will mention that bag of excrement I talked about earlier and suggest I climb into it.

But I'll be vaccinated.

And wearing a mask.

And unlike those who didn't get to make that choice, and those who died after begging for another chance to get the jab they turned down ...

I won't be in a body bag.

Contact Kennerly at 321-242-3692 or bkennerly@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @bybrittkennerly Facebook: /bybrittkennerly.

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Fully vaccinated but I still wear masks. Here's why | Opinion

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