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Shannon Rosa: Please Wear a Mask

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Many are enjoying the relaxation of mask requirements, but for others it signals an ominous new phase in the pandemic. Shannon Rosa has this Perspective.

My adult autistic son cannot tolerate wearing a facemask, so we have kept him out of public indoor spaces for most of the pandemic. You might think I welcome the current decline in indoor facemask restrictions.

But I don’t, because I saw how premature mask mandate drops led to the resurgence of COVID-19 in delta and omicron forms, and then spikes in COVID hospitalizations and deaths. Now scientists are worrying that the emerging BA.2 subvariant may be the most communicable COVID form yet.

And my primary concern is that people with intellectual disabilities, like my son, have died from COVID at a much higher rate than other people — in part because it’s harder for medical workers to accommodate their specific needs during crises. Also, the pandemic illustrated clearly that doctors openly or subconsciously prioritize non-disabled patients for respirators and other life-saving treatments.

When we wear our facemasks, we do more than protect ourselves. As with vaccines, wearing a facemask also keeps COVID from spreading to other people. So, I would prefer that we keep our facemasks on, with exceptions for the tiny percentage of disabled people, like my vulnerable son, who truly can’t wear them.


Instead, I see businesses posting signs asking people to wear masks if they are not vaccinated. Forgive me if I find it hard to believe that people who refuse to enter into the social contract of vaccination will somehow abide by the social contract of voluntary mask wearing. My greatest wish is for those of us who can wear masks to keep doing so, because that will help get COVID out of circulation.

Even though my son’s pandemic experience has been so limited, we are still able to enjoy socially distanced outdoor activities like daily hikes. But he would like to get back to something like his pre-pandemic life, as would so many other disabled and high-risk people, including those who are immune-compromised. But they won’t be able to do that as long as we keep letting mask guidelines drop prematurely.

With a Perspective, I’m Shannon Rosa.

Shannon Rosa lives in Redwood City and is editor of a guide to autism information and advocacy.

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