At a press conference on Tuesday, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said he is “really tired” and “really done” with wearing a face mask and frustrated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidelines: “I’m not real excited to sacrifice to protect someone who doesn’t seem to care.”
He stressed that he didn’t wonder whether masks work — he’s always been clear that he knows they do — but that he doesn’t want to bear the burden of wearing them any longer.
Cox said people were being asked to wear a mask again because of a “very, very small amount of breakthrough (COVID-19) cases” that could be passed on from a vaccinated person to an unvaccinated person. “The CDC is asking all of you who are vaccinated to ‘take one for the team’ once again to protect people who are not vaccinated but have had the opportunity to do so.”
Less than 0.1% of fully vaccinated Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, according to an analysis of CDC data.
“I’m grateful that there are people who are willing to sacrifice and wear masks again to protect the unvaccinated,” Cox said. “I gotta be honest with you, I don’t know if I’m one of those people.”
I don’t know if I am anymore, either.
To be clear, there are pockets of people who remain unvaccinated due to unique medical circumstances, and some people who have been vaccinated have compromised immune systems such that wearing a mask around them may still be prudent. Neither group should be on the receiving end of public vitriol.
Others, like the “vaccine hesitant,” may just need the right information from the right person to assuage their fears and cut through the morass of social media opinions.
But it’s another group that exhausts my patience — those whose mission is not of facts and freedom and fortitude, like they claim it is, but rather one of ignorance masquerading as expertise and selfishness parading as courage.
They are the people who now refuse to protect themselves and their community with a vaccine, just as they refused to protect themselves and others last year with a face mask.
They are the people who have never stopped calling me a “sheep” for following science, while they ironically bleat along and follow every word that comes out of the mouth of pundits whose main objective is provocation.
They are the people who kicked and screamed about lockdowns and other desperate, crippling preventative measures, when the universal masking they refused to go along with could have prevented so much of it.
They are the people who I have patiently, tirelessly engaged with — dutifully fact-checking and correcting every piece of misinformation they have sent my way.
They are the people using scare tactics and shouting from the rooftops about the less than 1 in 200,000 person who has a severe allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccines, while simultaneously ignoring the 1 in 200 person who dies from contracting the disease.
They are the people who, as Dr. James Souza, the chief medical officer at St. Luke’s Health Systems, put it, “are more interested in putting an animal anti-parasite medication (Ivermectin) into their body,” rather than adopt far safer and less invasive measures like vaccines.
They are the people once again filling intensive care units of hospitals, awaiting care and treatment from front-line workers who have been praying to God for a reprieve of the round-the-clock horrors of the pandemic and are now unable to get it because they are having to take care of people who refused to take care of themselves.
They are the group who have fought against every scientific study related to the coronavirus and sought to malign public health officials who have tirelessly tried to combat the wildfires of misinformation they’ve so callously spread.
They are the ones who go to extreme lengths just to prove that no Democrat or liberal will have the satisfaction of telling them what to do.
They’re a group of people I still love because I have friends and family members among them; I’m just not willing to carry the burden of their bruised pride on my shoulders any longer.
Every parent of a wayward child reaches the point where they understand that all the pushing, prodding and persisting isn’t helping anymore and that some lessons just have to be learned the hard way.
Like Cox, I’m grateful for those willing to dig even deeper into their well of patience. I’m just not sure I’m one of them anymore.
Daryl Austin is a journalist based in Utah. His work has appeared in National Geographic, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today and The New York Times.