However, kids under 5 can’t be vaccinated yet, and there’s news that vaccines for kids 5 to 11 aren’t as effective as we once thought. COVID is still lurking, and it’s dangerous for so many people, including those who are immunosuppressed. By shedding our masks, are we turning our backs on the most vulnerable?
I asked parents how they’re feeling about the whole thing, and: Wow. You people are impassioned on both sides. Here’s a sampling of responses.
“I wish I could feel ready to move on, but it feels premature at this point,” says Sharon Schiffer in Ipswich, who’s worried about vaccine effectiveness for her first-grader, who will continue to mask, especially because there are younger kids in the family.
“It’s a simple and effective way to keep the virus from spreading,” says Swampscott’s Maria Josefson.
In Belmont, Jennifer Leigh Salucci, who has a child under 5, agrees. She’s grateful that her town has decided to keep masks in place for now, especially as people return from February vacation travel. Numbers spiked after holiday travel, she says, and they might again.
“I expect the same is happening this week,” she says. “I am still a little anxious about lifting the mandate altogether. As a family, we will still be wearing masks in places like doctors’ offices and public transportation, no matter what the mandates say, at least until our little one can get vaccinated,” Salucci says.
“I wish people didn’t ignore the under-five kids in the name of going back to ‘normal,’” says Teresa O’Brien in Bellingham, who has a 3-year-old.
“Rolling back mask mandates misses the opportunity to teach children to care about their impact on others. Families with children under 5 and high-risk households pay the price of this missed lesson more than anyone,” says Arlington’s Jessica Slate von Goeler.
Other parents feel like kids have been through enough, and there needs to be some kind of exit strategy.
“The kids have had to mask more often and longer hours per day than most adults. I have one 9-year-old, and he’s [vaccinated]. His school hasn’t had any cases in weeks. If this isn’t the time to lift the mandate, when is it?” wonders Somerville’s Amanda Rychel.
In Roslindale, Natasha Crespi agrees, especially since the vaccine was reportedly less effective in preventing childhood infection during the Omicron surge, based on data out of New York state (though it did prevent severe disease).
“Kids need to see faces,” she says. “I’d really rather that they learn useful human interaction and be able to socialize normally.”
In Wakefield, Jennifer Percoco is torn between wanting her kids to experience mask-free life and avoiding illness.
“I feel very conflicted. I am very ready for [masks] to go. But, at the same time, we have tried so hard to not get this virus that it does make me a little nervous,” she says. “But I am so ready to see their faces and not have to remember a mask every day. My kids are both vaccinated, and I am just hoping for the best.”
So is Concord’s Matt Taylor, who says he’s relieved.
“It affected their childhood, so I feel like a lot of it was a mistake for the under-12-year-olds, which upsets me, even though I was a pro-Fauci guy,” he says.
In Harvard, Barbara Romero worries about the trauma that two years of masking has wrought.
“This is not like a Band-Aid that we will rip off and it’s done. There is a lot of trauma across the board that we have to unpack together: as communities, families and individuals. There are other mandates still in place that disproportionately impact children and their learning, like distancing,” she says.
In Medfield, Cal Blanchette’s entire family had COVID, and she’s still struggling.
And yet: “My kids were super-excited to see kids without masks,” she says. “My oldest daughter told me when she got home, ‘Everyone is even more beautiful than I expected!”
As for my thoughts? Well, COVID is beginning to feel like one more thing I need to throw into that big fat pile of parenting unknowns. I’m worried about my kids going to camp. I’m worried about cyberbullies, school shooters, and all sorts of other unpredictable and potentially devastating things that I can’t protect them from. I’ll be worried when they get their drivers’ licenses.
All I can do is my best, which meant masking (and sniffing out the counterfeit ones!), and then vaccinating when it was recommended (and, OK, obsessively refreshing the CVS website a li’l bit). I’ve done my job — and now, like so much else in parenthood, I just have to sit back and hope it all turns out OK.
Kara Baskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.