During a Pandemic, no one has complete control over their health. No field should be more aware of this than public health, which is unique from medicine. Unlike doctors and nurses who treat sick people in front of them, public-health practitioners aim to keep entire populations healthy. It is expected of them to think large.
They understand that infectious diseases are always communal issues since they are contagious. One sick person can seed a hemisphere’s worth of illnesses; one sick person’s choices can ripple outward to affect cities, countries, and continents. As a result, each person’s chances of being unwell are influenced by the actions of those around them—systemic problems like poverty and discrimination that are beyond their control.
People in underserved Black and Latino areas were disproportionately infected and died by the new coronavirus, and they now have some of the lowest immunization rates in the country. Perhaps that’s why the CDC’s announcement on May 13 that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to wear masks in most indoor places alarmed so many public-health specialists.
Rochelle Walensky, the agency director, said, “The move today was really to talk about individuals and what individuals are safe doing. We really want to empower people to take this responsibility into their own hands.”