If you’re fully vaccinated, there’s no longer a requirement to wear a mask in most places you go in Arlington.

There are exceptions — notably at the airport, in schools, and in healthcare settings — but most businesses are now following CDC guidelines and allowing the fully vaccinated to go mask-less.

There was, of course, a time in the pandemic when masks were very necessary to slow the spread of the disease and save lives.

Most masks worn by members of the general public are of the cloth or disposable surgical variety, which are moderately effective at preventing transmission, mostly by the wearer. That made masks an important public health tool during a pandemic caused by an airborne virus that can be highly contagious before an infected person shows symptoms.

Cloth and surgical masks are not as effective at filtering inhaled particles — and thus preventing the wearer from becoming infected — as the N95 masks used by healthcare workers, but are generally seen as better than nothing, particularly when worn in crowded settings indoors.

With about two-thirds of eligible Arlington residents at least partially vaccinated, and average daily new infections in the low single-digits, a fully vaccinated person wearing a surgical or cloth mask in most situations is conveying very little public health benefit. Rather, if anything it’s more of a societal signal — a thoughtful, if unnecessary, courtesy to those around you.

Many in Arlington, we’ve observed, are still wearing masks by default when entering a business, like a restaurant or a store. Perhaps some are not vaccinated, while for others it’s out of habit or uncertainty about which businesses still require masks.

This morning we’re wondering: what is your default regarding masks when stepping into a business?


Subscribe to our mailing list