Texas resident Robert Soto can’t wait to visit his favorite karaoke spots in Austin. He says he’ll be wearing his mask when he belts out “Amber” by 311 or “The Promise” by When in Rome — his go-to songs every time he grabs the mic at a bar.

Soto plans to resume some social activities after he gets his second vaccine shot this month, joining the more than 100 million Americans who are fully vaccinated. But his life will be nothing like his carefree pre-pandemic days.

“I will probably still wear my mask and avoid shaking hands for a long while,” he says.

For Soto and many other pandemic-weary Americans, this is a tricky time. The vaccinated are emerging from 14 months of social isolation into a world where key questions remain about where and when to wear a mask.

Is that unmasked person near me vaccinated? If I don’t wear a mask, am I setting a bad example or making others uneasy?

This confusion is sparking political debates similar to ones seen in the early days of the pandemic. And while places are reopening and things feel safer, lingering anxieties remain.

Pandemic trauma has boosted fears about going out without a mask

Americans who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask in some instances outdoors or when they’re with people from their own household, according to new guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the agency urges vaccinated people to continue to take precautions in indoor public settings.

Discrepancies between state and local rules are adding to the confusion.

For example in Utah, where the state’s mask mandate expired in April, some businesses continue to enforce face coverings. Restaurants and stores in many states have been struggling to balance service and safety.

In Texas, Soto can opt to go maskless. Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the state’s mask mandate in March, allowing businesses to reopen at full capacity. But even with his invigorated immune system, Soto plans to keep wearing a mask in public, with or without crowds.

His parents have pre-existing health conditions and his sister has a newborn, and he wants to keep them safe. Also, federal health officials have said vaccinated people can still get and spread coronavirus as long as there’s community transmission.

“I will admit that I am afraid of being judged by people who are less concerned than me. It makes me not want to wear the mask so I can avoid stares and judgment,” he told CNN. “But I will just have to push through that because my health and the health of my family is more important.”

Health experts say such concerns are the result of a year of pandemic trauma.

Even in a post-pandemic world, some people will experience fear, confusion and anxiety, says Dr. Hector Colon-Rivera, president of the American Psychiatric Association’s Hispanic caucus.

Some people are finding it hard to let go of their face masks, an item they’ve associated for months with saving lives, he told CNN. Those who’ve lost loved ones to coronavirus may have an especially difficult time.

“It’s like suffering from a form of PTSD or trauma that will make some people hyper-vigilant,” Colon-Rivera says.

Some Americans remain concerned about the variants

With all the fear and uncertainties, keeping a mask on for now just makes sense for some people.

Lexie Little, a master’s student at the University of Georgia, is fully vaccinated and eager to spend time with her family. But even though the self-described “people person” is looking forward to a time when she can see smiles again, she’ll continue wearing her mask when she’s around crowds and unvaccinated people for a while.

“I want to protect others around me from potentially contracting the virus,” she says. “Science continues to evolve surrounding the spread by those who have already been vaccinated, so I’m waiting for more clarification before doing away with the mask in daily life outside my bubble.”

She’s also concerned about the many unknowns surrounding variants — new strains of the virus that appear to be more transmissible.

“Variants continue to pose a threat as researchers examine their spread, but I have been encouraged by recent findings surrounding vaccine efficacy against the B.1.351 and B.1.1.7 variants,” she told CNN.

The variants may help explain why despite the apparent effectiveness of the vaccines, concerns over catching the virus are not going away.

In a new poll released Monday by the American Psychiatric Association, 64% of Americans are anxious about family members and loved ones catching the coronavirus. That’s an increase from 56% last year and higher than the 49% who are concerned about catching the virus themselves.

Others will keep a mask on to protect children

Emily Rivera just got her Johnson & Johnson shot this week. The Centreville, Virginia, resident will continue following the CDC recommendations on mask-wearing indoors. But she also plans to keep wearing her mask in public long after the pandemic is declared over — partly to protect her four children.

“It’s such a habit and has definitely helped with the flu and cold season,” she told CNN. “I’m not sure I’ll believe we’re past the pandemic for a while anyhow.”

Rivera says she was not a fan of wearing masks at first and found them claustrophobic. But she’s gotten more used to them and believes they have made her family less sickly this year.

“And it’s definitely warmer on walks,” she says.

Elle McKenna of Oakland, California, is fully vaccinated but plans to wear a mask in public indoor spaces and outdoor spaces with lots of people.

“The vaccines work very effectively, but not everyone is vaccinated, community transmission is still happening, and children cannot be vaccinated yet,” McKenna says.

“There is a need to set a good example for others, and to work together to minimize transmission as much as possible.”

Even after coronavirus is no longer a risk, McKenna plans to continue wearing a mask to protect against the flu and similar viruses that can be risky to people with weakened immune systems.

McKenna also loves using masks as a fashion statement by coordinating them to various outfits. And wearing a mask eliminates the expectation to fake smiles at strangers, McKenna added.

The pandemic has made some people more germophobic

Despite the lifting of mask mandates, many Americans may also be reluctant to go maskless because they’re at risk of other respiratory illnesses or just afraid of germs, one expert says.

Robert Quigley, global medical director of International SOS, which consults with companies on health and safety, says human beings are creatures of habit. After a year of wearing masks, ditching them may feel strange to some people.

“Changing routines can be most challenging,” he told CNN.

Public health authorities have documented a significant decline in flu cases since people began wearing masks in the pandemic, he says.

“The pandemic has certainly brought the value of good daily practices in personal hygiene, and their benefits … against (disease).”

So for now, many Americans will err on the side of caution.

A customer wearing a face mask interacts with a Delta employee at Hartsfield Jackson airport in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo: Delta Air Lines)
A customer wearing a face mask interacts with a Delta employee at Hartsfield Jackson airport in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo: Delta Air Lines)

Join the Conversation

10771 Comments

  1. I agree with your point of view, your article has given me a lot of help and benefited me a lot. Thanks. Hope you continue to write such excellent articles.

  2. [url=http://lyricaf.online/]Lyrica pills for sale[/url] are a medication I frequently recommend to my patients struggling with nerve-related pain.

  3. Thanks to [url=https://esynthroid.com/]Synthroid 62.5 mcg[/url], I’m able to maintain my energy levels and stay healthy despite my thyroid condition.

  4. I’ve wasted countless hours searching for a way to [url=https://clomidium.com/]buy Clomid without prescription[/url] and it’s frustrating.

  5. Looking for an exciting way to spend your free time?
    Look no further than our website dedicated to all
    things gambling! Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie just starting out, our site
    has everything you need to satisfy your thirst for adrenaline-pumping action. From classic
    table games like poker and blackjack to the latest slot machines
    and virtual sports betting, we’ve got it all. And with our user-friendly interface and
    secure payment options, you can rest assured that your experience with
    us will be both entertaining and safe. So why wait?
    Come join the fun and see what all the fuss is about!

    My web-site :: blog5.net

  6. hydrochlorothiazide cost [url=https://hydrochlorothiazide.foundation/]buy hydrochlorothiazide uk[/url] hydrochlorothiazide brand

  7. celebrex online without prescription [url=https://celebrexcelecoxib.charity/]celebrex tablets uk[/url] celebrex from canada without a prescription

  8. Due to the potential for birth defects, women of childbearing age have to take special precautions while on [url=http://accutan.online/]Accutane 50mg[/url].

  9. purchase cialis online from canada [url=https://cialis.africa/]buy cialis in mexico online[/url] cialis daily coupon

  10. buy baclofen online australia [url=https://baclofena.online/]can you buy baclofen over the counter[/url] baclofen pharmacy

  11. The lack of availability of [url=https://cipro.gives/]cipro for sale online[/url] is concerning, especially during a pandemic.

  12. After reading your article, it reminded me of some things about gate io that I studied before. The content is similar to yours, but your thinking is very special, which gave me a different idea. Thank you. But I still have some questions I want to ask you, I will always pay attention. Thanks.

  13. buy lexapro online no prescription [url=http://escitalopram.gives/]cheap lexapro[/url] buy generic lexapro cheap

  14. I’ve been taking [url=https://flassix.com/]Lasix medicine[/url] for a few weeks now and have noticed a significant reduction in my swelling.

  15. [url=http://alisinopril.com/]Lisinopril 20 12.5 mg[/url] can interact with other medications, so patients should inform their healthcare provider of all medications they are taking.

  16. If you’re unsure [url=http://metforminr.online/]where to buy metformin tablets[/url], ask your healthcare provider for recommendations.

  17. can i buy amoxicillin over the counter without a prescription [url=https://amoxicillin.science/]amoxicillin 8500 mg[/url] amoxicillin price in usa

  18. Your article made me suddenly realize that I am writing a thesis on gate.io. After reading your article, I have a different way of thinking, thank you. However, I still have some doubts, can you help me? Thanks.

  19. dexamethasone 75 mg tablet [url=https://dexamethasoner.com/]dexamethasone 2 mg pill[/url] dexamethasone price in usa

  20. celebrex without prescription [url=http://celecoxib.gives/]can you buy celebrex over the counter in australia[/url] celebrex drug price

  21. where can i buy proscar [url=http://proscar.foundation/]buy cheap proscar online[/url] how to buy proscar online

  22. The benefits of [url=https://modafinil.africa/]modafinil 2020[/url] extend far beyond its primary use as a treatment for sleep disorders.

  23. vermox buy online europe [url=https://vermoxr.online/]vermox tablets uk[/url] can you buy vermox over the counter

  24. rx pharmacy [url=http://pleasantspharmacy.online/]online pharmacy australia free delivery[/url] legitimate online pharmacy

  25. can you buy propranolol over the counter [url=http://propranolol.lol/]buy propranolol online usa[/url] propranolol order online

  26. triamterene hydrochlorothiazide 37.5 25 [url=http://hydrochlorothiazide.foundation/]hydrochlorothiazide 25 mg otc[/url] buy hydrochlorothiazide

  27. amoxicillin 250 mg price in india [url=https://amoxicillin.science/]amoxicillin buy no prescription cheapest[/url] amoxicillin over the counter uk

  28. how to order cialis without a prescription [url=https://cialis.africa/]where can i get cialis over the counter[/url] over the counter generic cialis

  29. The new medication I’m taking requires a dosage adjustment every few weeks, unlike [url=http://synthroidmx.online/]Synthroid 300 mcg tablets[/url].

  30. Consistent use of [url=https://alisinopril.com/]lisinopril diuretic[/url] can lower blood pressure and prevent complications such as stroke or heart attack.

  31. I’m so glad I decided to take the plunge and [url=https://modafinil.africa/]order modafinil Canada[/url] – it was definitely worth it.

  32. where can i get misoprostol over the counter [url=http://cytotec.gives/]how much is cytotec in south africa[/url] buy misoprostol online no prescription

  33. proscar prescription canada [url=https://proscar.foundation/]generic for proscar[/url] how to buy proscar online

  34. Don’t want to waste time going to the doctor, just tell me where I can [url=https://clomid.africa/]clomid buy online no prescription[/url].

  35. I’ve been searching everywhere for information on [url=https://modafinil.africa/]how to get modafinil[/url], but nothing seems to be working.

  36. I’ve recommended [url=http://synthroidmx.online/]Synthroid 88 mg[/url] to several friends and family members who suffer from thyroid problems.

  37. bactrim ds 800 160 tab [url=https://bactrim.ink/]cheapest generic bactrim (sulfamethoxazole / trimethoprim) without a persription[/url] purchase bactrim

  38. hydrochlorothiazide 150 mg [url=https://hydrochlorothiazide.foundation/]hydrochlorothiazide online canada[/url] hydrochlorothiazide cheap

  39. amoxicillin 1600 mg [url=http://amoxicillin.science/]can we buy amoxcillin 500mg on ebay without prescription[/url] 500mg amoxicillin for sale

  40. I don’t wanna risk it, I think I’m just gonna [url=https://accutan.online/]accutane 20 mg buy online[/url] from a local pharmacy.

  41. If you’re in need of a nerve pain medication, [url=http://lyrjca.com/]lyrica pills for sale[/url] are worth discussing with your doctor.

  42. dapoxetine over the counter [url=http://dapoxetine.charity/]dapoxetine 30 mg tablet price in india[/url] buy dapoxetine in india

  43. Very good blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers?

    I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or
    go for a paid option? There are so many choices out
    there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any ideas? Bless
    you!

    my web-site; Kamagra Oral Jelly Prezzo

  44. Patients should consider joining prescription savings programs in order to lower the [url=http://clomid.africa/]Clomid price without insurance[/url].

  45. The legality of [url=https://modafinil.africa/]modafinil where to buy USA[/url] is no longer an issue for users seeking to unlock their full cognitive potential.

  46. It’s important for patients to track their medication expenses, including the [url=http://alisinopril.com/]lisinopril price without insurance[/url], to ensure they can afford their treatments.

  47. [url=https://clomid2023.online/]Clomid pill online[/url] should only be taken under the guidance and supervision of a licensed healthcare provider.

  48. [url=https://clomid2023.online/]Fertility Clomid[/url] requires close monitoring by a healthcare provider to ensure proper dosage and timing.

  49. It is important to follow the prescribed dosage and frequency of [url=https://alisinopril.com/]lisinopril 20[/url] to achieve optimal results.

  50. Is there a significant difference in the [url=https://metforminr.online/]price of metformin 500 mg in India[/url] compared to other countries?

  51. Patients should always ask their healthcare provider about any available cost-saving resources or programs, including those that can reduce the [url=http://alisinopril.com/]lisinopril price without insurance[/url].

  52. hydrochlorothiazide 200 mg [url=http://hydrochlorothiazide.foundation/]buy hydrochlorothiazide online without prescription[/url] hydrochlorothiazide discount

  53. I’ve tried other medications for my thyroid problems, but [url=http://synthroid.skin/]synthroid 0.75 mcg[/url] is the only one that works for me.

  54. generic elimite cream price [url=https://permethrin.foundation/]elimite cream directions[/url] where can i purchase elimite

  55. It is important to monitor your blood glucose levels regularly while taking [url=http://metforminr.online/]Metformin HCL 500 mg[/url].

  56. I highly recommend checking out [url=https://metforminr.online/]metformin order online Canada[/url] – it’s made my life so much easier.

  57. [url=http://cipro.gives/]Cipro 400 mg IV[/url] can interact with other medications, so inform your doctor of any other medicines you may be taking.

  58. top 10 pharmacies in india [url=http://dynamicpharmacyhealth.online/]reputable indian pharmacies[/url] express scripts com pharmacies

  59. [url=http://alisinopril.com/]Lisinopril 80 mg[/url] can cause dizziness or lightheadedness, so it is important to avoid activities that require alertness until you know how the medication affects you.

  60. best dapoxetine tablet in india [url=http://dapoxetine.charity/]dapoxetine india online[/url] dapoxetine tablets for sale

  61. can i buy erythromycin over the counter uk [url=https://erythromycin.trade/]erythromycin pill price[/url] medication erythromycin 250 mg

  62. rate canadian pharmacies [url=https://dynamicpharmacyhealth.online/]onlinecanadianpharmacy[/url] legitimate mexican pharmacy online

  63. Don’t let the cost of medication get in the way of your health- buy [url=https://synthroidmx.online/]cheap Synthroid online[/url].

  64. Before [url=http://clomid2023.online/]buying Clomid on line[/url], one must ensure that they have a valid prescription from a qualified healthcare professional.

  65. motilium uk buy [url=https://motiliumtab.shop/]motilium without prescription[/url] motilium over the counter singapore

  66. dexamethasone 1.5 tablet [url=https://dexamethasoner.com/]dexamethasone 500mcg[/url] dexamethasone brand name in usa

  67. [url=https://synthroid.skin/]Synthroid 137 mcg cost[/url] should not be a barrier to quality healthcare, and we are working to break down that barrier.

  68. [url=http://lyrjca.com/]Lyrica 600 mg[/url] may interact with other medications, so be sure to inform your doctor of all medications you are taking.

  69. [url=https://alisinopril.com/]Lisinopril 40 mg pills[/url] should not be taken within two hours of taking antacids containing aluminum or magnesium.

  70. My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find almost all of your post’s to be just what
    I’m looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content for you personally?
    I wouldn’t mind producing a post or elaborating on a lot of the subjects you write with regards to here.
    Again, awesome web log!

  71. Can I pay for my [url=http://synthroid.skin/]synthroid online purchase[/url] through my credit card or do they accept other modes of payment?

  72. Patients should always ask their healthcare provider about any available cost-saving resources or programs, including those that can reduce the [url=https://alisinopril.com/]lisinopril price without insurance[/url].

  73. Patients should never take more than the prescribed dose of [url=http://modafinil.africa/]cheap modafinil[/url], even if it’s affordable and easily obtainable.

  74. finasteride tablets 1mg price in india [url=https://fenosteride.online/]buy finasteride no prescription[/url] finasteride 5mg no prescription

  75. buying neurontin without a prescription [url=https://neurontinpill.online/]buy cheap neurontin[/url] how to get neurontin

  76. finasteride brand name in india [url=http://fenosteride.online/]online pharmacy finasteride 1mg[/url] buy finasteride