In an eerie preview of our “post-pandemic” future, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are still donning face masks even after vaccination, illustrating how pandemic rules might be here to stay for quite some time, with no clear threshold provided for what justifies repeal.
House Democrats began to put in motion last week a new rule change fining members $500 then $2,500 on the second offense for those who don’t wear face masks. The proposal comes after Democrats baselessly blamed maskless Republicans sheltering in the Capitol bunker during this month’s siege for infecting three Democratic lawmakers.
The vaccination drive for members of Congress, however, began in December. By now, most members of Congress and even a sizeable number of staff have been afforded the opportunity to be vaccinated, receiving both shots clearing them of possible infection. And yet, face masks remain compulsory on Capitol Hill, and now on all federal property pursuant to a new executive edict passed down by the new president Wednesday.
Every person pictured in the photo below at President Joe Biden’s signing ceremony should have been vaccinated, and yet remains properly distanced wearing face masks.
So why are members still wearing them despite themselves being vaccinated? Some might charge it as political theatre, others cite it as “example setting.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the jury still technically remains out on whether vaccinated individuals can still spread the virus, recommending that until more data is available — whenever that will be — masks remain essential regardless of one’s own immunity.
While not downplaying the purported effectiveness in masks to slow the spread, many have highlighted, however, that previous vaccine experience shows there’s little to no chance vaccinated individuals can still serve as conduits of the virus.
“If there is an example of a vaccine in widespread clinical use that has this selective effect — prevents disease but not infection — I can’t think of one!” writes Harvard Dr. Paul E. Sax.
Dr. Monica Gandhi of the University of California, San Francisco echoes Sax’s sentiments on Twitter, writing, “Please be assured that YOU ARE SAFE after vaccine from what matters — disease and spreading.”
No time in history do we have this extraordinary detection of asymptomatic infection since latter can transmit to others. So, please be assured that YOU ARE SAFE after vaccine from what matters – disease and spreading. Two vaccinated people can be as close as 2 spoons in drawer!
— Monica Gandhi MD, MPH (@MonicaGandhi9) January 9, 2021
Still, Gandhi has continued to urge those who are vaccinated to continue wearing masks.
If okay, I am going to just say this once more so no misunderstandings. Yes, those who are vaccinated should protect those who are unvaccinated by masking/distancing until we get to mass vaccination/herd immunity because the data we have from Moderna/AZ trials
— Monica Gandhi MD, MPH (@MonicaGandhi9) January 18, 2021
When it comes to masks on Capitol Hill, some members have refused to take the vaccine, whether out of skepticism of the vaccine itself such as Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck, or out of an insistence that front-line medical workers get vaccinated first such as Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul (who also already had the virus last year).
The Office of the Attending Physician did not respond to The Federalist’s inquiries on how many members of Congress or how many staffers had been vaccinated.
Paul, also a physician, has also recommended Americans already enjoying immunity either through previous infection or vaccination throw away their face masks, arguing there’s no need, though CDC guidelines have stipulated otherwise.