A pandemic is a moving target — that’s been true since the beginning, as scientists learn more about how COVID-19 spreads, infects and kills.

No masks, masks, back to no masks and now, it appears, another recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that even vaccinated individuals should wear masks indoors if they live in areas of high and substantial transmission. As of Tuesday afternoon, that is 63 percent of the nation’s counties.

Rather than backpedaling, this is a sensible and overdue reaction to both vaccine hesitancy and the mutating coronavirus variants. In fact, the CDC should make its advice simpler: Wear masks indoors and when it’s crowded outdoors.

The United States was close to putting the pandemic behind us. But that success is beginning to slow. To prevent an overload of our health care system and workers, Americans must again change their behaviors.

The new recommendations also have implication for children in school, with the CDC asking that everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask. That will be impossible in some states where laws ban such mandates. Fortunately, New Mexico is smarter than that.

In New Mexico, the state Public Education Department has recommended masks for all students without vaccinations. That includes all elementary-age schoolchildren — they can’t be vaccinated yet — but vaccinated students can attend school and not wear masks under the initial advice.

This approach is both too risky and too complicated. The PED said it is reconsidering guidelines since the CDC has updated its recommendations.

Keep it simple. Require masks for all students learning in person. Adults in schools also should wear masks. One message — wear masks for the good of everyone, vaccinated or vulnerable.

And K-12 schools are not the only educational institutions that need to do more to stop the coronavirus spread. Public universities should require proof of vaccinations for staff and for students who want to attend college in person. So far, the University of New Mexico has set an “aspirational” goal of 100 percent vaccinated but is not requiring COVID-19 vaccines. New Mexico State University also is not requiring COVID-19 vaccinations. That’s a recipe for disaster. It also defies logic.

Here’s why: The delta variant is too contagious. New data is showing people infected with the delta strain can carry up to 1,000 times more of the virus in their nasal passages than those who had the original strain. It spreads two to three times faster than the original virus and now makes up 80 percent of cases in the U.S.

Public health strategies can buy time to finish the vaccination of adults and make sure teens and children are inoculated against COVID-19. So many of the unvaccinated are not stubborn adults; they are children. We must protect them.

A vaccine mandate likely won’t be accepted given the insistence of too many citizens that their rights trump everyone else’s. However, requiring proof of vaccination to attend concerts, travel on mass transit and work in federal or state jobs could persuade reluctant individuals. Colleges could require students to be vaccinated. So could hospitals and health care centers. All of this protects everyone else and slows the spread.

Because while we debate masks and mandates, the virus keeps mutating. And that’s the issue for CDC boss Dr. Rochelle Walensky: “We’re just a few mutations potentially away where it could potentially evade our vaccines.”

That’s a terrifying scenario. And one to which we should all pay heed.

We have vaccinations. They work. We have public health strategies. They work.

Use them — the life you save could be your own.

(16) comments

mark Coble

CDC says stop using PCR tests. Gee, wonder why? CDC also released stats on who, exactly,dies with covid. Hint...obese folks are high risk. Anxiety disorders also figure high in covid co morbidities deaths. Where are folks getting this anxiety from? Mask on? Mask off? What kind of masks? Worn how long? Cleaned when? Oh, right, don't ask!

Will SFNM print that? No.

Tom Ribe

We can thank Donald Trump and other anti-government folks on the right for politicizing the pandemic. These folks polarized this issue to raise money and in the case of Donny Trump, to make sure the spotlight stayed on him and his shock-jock antics at all times. The current GOP has a lot of blood on its hands.

Mike Johnson

Yes, and as so well stated by a parody website: "U.S.—To defeat the massive, scary, definitely world-ending wave of COVID being driven by the India variant of the deadly, frightening disease you should remain afraid of for the rest of your life, experts are recommending we try all the things that didn't work the first time."

Khal Spencer


Denise Jimenez


Stefanie Beninato

So many people think it cannot happen to them. Even mild cases of COVID can have longterm consequences including brain fog, extreme tiredness, loss of smell and taste and nervous system damage that can go on for a long time or indefinitely. Is it really that hard to put a mask on for your own health and that of others. So it would be great if the city enforced the mask restrictions it has in place instead of letting rec users come in unmasked into a facility or allow one or more persons to use the weight room or gym unmasked. There are others coming behind you who will use the same space--mark the passage about the virulence of the delta variant.

Khal Spencer

There already seems to be quite a bit of "brain fog" out there. Just read the comments sections.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]Nailed it!

Khal Spencer


Khal Spencer

With eight billion people overloading the planet's resources, perhaps I'll root for the virus.

Tom Ribe

I can agree with that Khal, but are you ready to die really soon to be part of that sentiment?

Khal Spencer

Hi Tom. We are both getting seriously up there, and we donated our share of kids to someone else, hoping they don't take it. So when we go, its two less folks waiting for that Amazon truck and contributing to the "climate crisis". So yes, we are doing our part.

mark Coble

That's a good one! We need climate crisis lockdown. You know, to save the planet.

Khal Spencer

I was actually serious, Mark. We have no natural enemies other than each other (war, interpersonal violence) and various Bugs. So we will populate the planet until we suffocate each other and everything else in our way. Its pretty much how biology works. The cynic in me says we will best solve the climate problem by eliminating ourselves. Otherwise, we kid ourselves with all this sustainability stuff. There is no energy free lunch.

mark Coble

Hard to tell sarcasm today. Like President Biden saying "you don't need a mask if you get vaccinated"....was he just kidding? Seems so now. BTW I'm not eliminating myself...haha.

Khal Spencer

Yeah. Its just a modest proposal, of sorts.

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