Ann Arbor, MI

Will We Still Wear Masks When We Don't Have to?

Joseph Serwach

18,000 dead in Michigan: Is it anxiety, the virus, vaccines — or all of the above making us scared?
Anxiety rates are soaring according to new polls.Photo by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Nearly everyone walking along State Street near the University of Michigan is still “masked up” even after federal and state officials eased outdoor restrictions.

Ann Arbor is the heart of Washtenaw County with the fourth-highest rate of vaccinated residents of any Michigan county: more than 61.4 percent have been vaccinated. Washtenaw is also the state’s most educated county: more than half have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Just three counties, Leelanau (with 69.2 percent receiving at least one dose), Grand Traverse County, and Emmet County, have higher vaccination rates. Detroit, Michigan’s largest city, has Michigan’s lowest vaccination rate: just 31.19 percent of residents have received at least one dose.

The lines were now short at nearby Michigan Stadium, where Michigan Medicine has been administering massive amounts of the Pfizer vaccine daily for months. The lines were much longer a month ago.

Seventeen miles up the road at the Green Oak Twp. Costco gas station in Livingston County, no one was wearing masks though the vaccination rates are lower: 43 percent of Livingston residents have received one or more doses.

For the first time since the pandemic began, younger people are now more likely to be hospitalized than the elderly, according to new Michigan health data.

Statewide, Michigan just passed the 51.5 percent mark, with most of its population now receiving one or more vaccinations.

Michigan leads the nation in cases. More than 18,084 Michigan residents have died from the virus though deaths are decreasing, and the third wave has seen far fewer deaths than those seen in spring and fall 2020.

A new Centers for Disease Control report argued anxiety has more to do with some adverse reactions to getting the COVID-19 shots.

41% more anxious now than a year ago

Anxiety rates are soaring:

  • A new national poll from the American Psychiatric Association shows more people reporting mental health concerns than last year. However, anxiety rates are somewhat lower now than a year earlier: 41 percent reported feeling more anxious now than in 2020 (when 60 percent were more anxious than they had been in 2019).
  • Nearly half of young Americans ages 18–29 (49 percent) and half of Hispanic/Latinos said they were more likely to report concerns about anxiety than a year ago. Just 30 percent of older Americans 65 or older felt the same.
  • Nearly two-thirds, 64 percent, said they were anxious about family or loved ones getting COVID-19, while 49 percent were anxious about catching the virus themselves.

6% say Americans will wear masks ‘indefinitely’

While the Centers for Disease Control and the state of Michigan recently eased up on recommendations about wearing masks outside, a new Rasmussen poll found a plurality, 49 percent, saying Americans should continue wearing masks in public even after being fully vaccinated.

But nearly as many, 42 percent, said Americans shouldn’t need to wear masks after being fully vaccinated. Divisions are largely partisan: 67 percent of Republicans said they shouldn’t need to wear masks, while 75 percent of Democrats said people should wear masks.

How long will Americans continue to wear masks?

  • A third predicted Americans would wear masks “six months to a year.”
  • Another 30 percent said mask-wearing would continue for “less than six months.”
  • Ten percent said mask-wearing would continue for “at least 18 months.”
  • Another 9 percent said it would continue “for the next couple of years.”
  • Another 6 percent thought Americans would wear masks “indefinitely.”

Meanwhile, U.S. health officials tell the Associated Press that it’s “anxiety — and not a problem with the shots” causing fainting, dizziness, and other short-term reactions to vaccines in five states that had widespread reactions at vaccine sites.

“Everybody thinks this is (only) young teenage girls,’’ Dr. Noni MacDonald, a Canadian researcher, said of anxious reactions after taking vaccines, adding that one person fainting can set off a chain reaction of other anxious reactions. “We knew we were going to see this.”

MacDonald and other researchers commissioned by the Centers for Disease Control investigated reports from clinics in California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, and North Carolina where 64 people reported symptoms like fainting, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, racing hearts, chest pain. But none were seriously ill.

The researchers attributed more common reactions such as sore arms, fatigue, headaches, fever, or chills to the vaccine. But MacDonald, a professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, said 10 percent to 15 percent of adults are afraid of any injections.

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