Masks come off, masks go back on

As I pen this month’s editorial, I am reading the 2-week rolling averages of new COVID-19 infections for the state of Georgia. The curve is taking on an uptick, presumably due to the new delta variant. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was hearing of more health care facilities lifting their mask mandates. In fact, a few weeks ago, one of the largest hospitals in our area lifted its mask mandate. Now it has been reinstated, and visitors are limited to select family members.

I am not reinstating the mask mandate at my office because I never lifted it in the first place, much to the annoyance of many. One woman came in and said she was not wearing a mask (provided by me free of charge) because she was vaccinated. She even asked me sarcastically if I was a viral epidemiologist. I politely returned the question to her. One man said, “What? Are you afraid?” I held my tongue as I politely yet bluntly explained to him that this was simply our policy and should be considered akin to wearing a shirt and shoes in a restaurant. My drive home that day was a different matter as I voiced aloud to the interior of my car everything I thought to say after the fact or that I refrained from saying at the time.

Many Georgians are considered to be living in areas of high transmissibility and are strongly encouraged to wear masks indoors and in crowds regardless of vaccination status. I must admit that for a while, I felt as though I was becoming an outlier for being a mask stickler. I wish I still felt that way.

Going back to my Socratic response to the woman’s question about my profession, I am, indeed, not a viral epidemiologist. Going further, I hate masks. It was 102˚ F the other day in my home town, and I am trying—rather unsuccessfully—to grow a beard. However, the delta variant is highly contagious and currently accounts for most infections in children. It is not necessarily innocuous to children as some individuals think, either. Couple these facts with it being back-to-school season, and it appears as though we must keep the pedal to the metal with our masks for a while longerat least that’s the plan for my office. So, more uncomfortable conversations regarding wearing masks for eye examinations are likely in my future, and I am growing more frustrated with getting pushback from patients.

What are the policies where you work? How are you handling individuals who take issue with your policies because they do not believe the science of the matter, have ideological differences, are simply “over it,” or just like being contrarians? Reach out and let us know.