When federal health officials recently announced that fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks in most situations, Jaz Johnson was among those who kept hers on. Johnson, 46, of Kansas City, Missouri, has received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, but she has no desire to go maskless. For the past year, Johnson has avoided the colds and flu she normally gets. So has her 95-year-old grandmother, who lives with her. In addition to helping keep her and her family healthy, masks have offered Johnson something else: the chance to hide emotions, such as contempt when someone is standing too close to her in a checkout line, or boredom when a relative tells the same story for the tenth time.“I am one of those people that cannot lie or get away with anything,” Johnson, who works in information technology, said. “It’s been pretty fun now that no one really knows, necessarily, what I’m thinking.”As mask mandates ease across the country, many people are finding that their affinity for face coverings extends beyond health reasons. Even with no requirement to wear their masks, some people are continuing to do so — having come to appreciate the reprieve they provide from stifling social expectations while out in public. These mask-wearers say they see a multitude of benefits to covering up. No one can tell you to smile when you don’t feel like it. It gives you a break from putting on makeup. And it provides a degree of anonymity.“It’s exhausting having to put on this smiling, very calm, brave face,” said Cassidy, 35, of Lake Tahoe, Nevada, who asked to be identified by first name only for privacy. A Navy veteran, Cassidy has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and agoraphobia and said masks feel like a “shield” that prevent uncomfortable interactions while running errands: “I can absorb the environment in a much more controlled manner without having to think about what my face is doing, and having to think about someone seeing my face.”The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still requires those who have not been vaccinated to wear masks. For those who are vaccinated, masks are required only in specific situations, such as public transportation. Baruch Fischhoff, who studies decision-making at Carnegie Mellon University, said that at this point in the pandemic, with just over 39 percent of the country fully vaccinated, there is a culmination of factors at play as to why vaccinated people may still choose to wear masks. They include showing solidarity with those who cannot get vaccinated, including young children, and signaling to others that they still care to protect one another. Confusion or ambivalence over whether it is the right time to remove masks is understandable, Fischhoff said. Some people may have felt an instant comfort after getting their shots, while others may not have yet quite come to believe that they are protected.
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