Is it too soon to ditch the masks?

The countdown is on for freedom in Manitoba. And it couldn’t come a day too soon. Or could it?

While most people are fed up with pandemic restrictions, some of the health orders have been tolerable. Truthfully, people staying six feet away from me has been delightful. I might almost lobby for that permanently. (It made me notice every cough, sneeze and sniffle around me.)

While there have been varying dates for restrictions being lifted — and many remaining as recommendations — we’re reminded that should the case counts rise, we might lose those freedoms we’ve so anxiously been anticipating.

But what about masks? Those have arguably been the most obnoxious of all the health orders. How do you feel about the mask rules being loosened? It depends on who you ask and when you ask them.

While out for brunch with friends last weekend, one of them complained about having to put on her mask to go to the washroom. She, like many people, questioned the logic of not having to wear it at the table while talking and laughing (spitting as she talks, as we all do) and wearing it as she walks through the dining room with her mouth closed. I realize that leaves her nose vulnerable but you understand the two scenarios nonetheless.

Her second complaint was the simple question: What’s a couple of days early, anyway? It’s true, the date for this restriction being lifted seemingly came from throwing a dart at a calendar several weeks ago. Do reasonable people think there’s much difference in walking through a near-empty room a week before the arbitrary freedom date versus the day of?

Yet for as much as the diners were in agreement that masks are annoying and we can’t wait to get rid of them, there was also the belief that it’s too soon to lose them altogether. That’s where we ran into contradictions and a debate.

“You’re counting down the days to get rid of the masks but in the next sentence saying you might keep wearing it when you don’t have to,” I challenged. That led me to inquire about when would be the right time. I was with a group of people who don’t follow the regular news updates from the province so they would simply be picking their own time.

Last June, when I was in Nashville on a work trip, the mask rules were lifted. At first I felt uncomfortable with everybody around me not wearing a mask. Very soon — very, very soon — it felt normal again to go maskless.

Last summer, people were fully vaccinated (at least for what that meant at the time) and at each location where we taped our travel/tourism radio segments, I was reassured that everyone was vaccinated and that I could lose the mask if I wanted to. While I kept it on for a few minutes, it eventually came off minutes later.

So, while there seems to be hesitancy for people showing their mouths again, I sense things will be back to “normal” for most within their first public outing or two. (Of course, in a crowded hockey arena shoulder to shoulder with 13,000 screaming fans, that might be an opportunity to make your own judgement call for comfort’s sake.)

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