COLUMBUS (WCMH) — With the CDC relaxing mask mandates for vaccinated individuals, some are worried that individuals who declined to get vaccinated will also take off their masks as well, potentially endangering unvaccinated children and people with medical conditions.
Because some people can be particularly protective of that information, or even get offended if they’re asked about being vaccinated, an Ohio medical expert says de-escalating the topic from one of a political, or value-based nature is the first step.
“If you don’t want to get vaccinated, and you’re not going to get vaccinated, that’s your choice but own that, and be honest about it,” encourages Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser with the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.
With health orders set to expire in Ohio on June 2nd, Gonsenhauser is hoping for a shift in conversations about the COVID-19 vaccine. Several national chains have already lifted mask mandates for vaccinated individuals.
But identifying those resisting the vaccine is creating a new challenge for businesses already forced to shift operations over the past year. “I know businesses are fearful about it. They shouldn’t need to be. It’s unfortunate that they are,” Dr. Gonsenhauser admits. “When somebody feels personally protective about that information or offended that they’re being asked, we have seen some really egregious responses.”
So, how comfortable should people be about asking, “Are you vaccinated?”
“Personally, I think we should be very comfortable with it. I think it’s something that we can all be doing just to help each other feel more comfortable and help mitigate any risk,” says Dr. Gonsenhauser.
Things like fake vaccination cards have also interfered with the process of tracking the vaccinated population. Leaving questions about whether a more effective solution or method could be on the way.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s an app, if it’s a card, if it’s simply asking a question, there’s incredible resistance and very fierce resistance to any of those suggestions,” Dr. Gonsenhauser says.
Local experts say the unvaccinated population is unlikely to cause a new wave of COVID-19 statewide. But doctors warn that areas of high resistance will continue to experience pandemic-proportion illness.
“They’re going to continue to see high numbers of COVID in their communities,” Dr. Gonsenhauser warns. “They’re going to continue to see high hospital demand and decreased capacity, and high healthcare costs, and loss of life.”
For Dr. Gonsenhauser, he’s hopeful most people will be honest about whether they are vaccinated or not. However, because business owners are hesitant to ask that question, he believes that fear could lead to some businesses choosing to maintain mask restrictions.
“We either need to know what the risk is and be able to mitigate it through knowledge and awareness,” says Dr. Gonsenhauser. “Or, if we’re not going to have that ability, then we just need to continue to require masking in some situations. If we want it to go away, we have to be able to have an open conversation and respond appropriately.”