Our View: Don’t toss that mask just yet

Our View: Don’t toss that mask just yet
(File Photo)

The news regarding COVID-19 levels is tremendously encouraging both in Alexandria and Virginia as a whole.

On Wednesday, for the second day this week, there were no new positive cases of COVID-19 reported in Alexandria, and our seven-day moving average is down to four.

For comparison’s sake, the last time Alexandria had a rate this low was April 3, 2020, the week before Easter, when there were only 23 cumulative cases in the city and the extent of the COVID-19 tragedy was as yet unknown. In the 13 months since Easter 2020, Alexandria’s cumulative cases have grown from 23 to 11,799, while 135 city residents have lost their lives to COVID-19.

The wonderful news is that the number of positive cases in Alexandria has nosedived during the last six weeks as our city approaches herd immunity levels of protection from COVID-19. As of Wednesday, 50% of Alexandria residents age 12 and up are at least partially vaccinated, while 42% are fully vaccinated. Those vaccine totals, which are rising by the day, seem to be forming a wall against spread of the virus.

And yet, all is not completely well. Yes, it’s a sad fact of life that no matter how good the news, there’s usually an “and yet” component.

Our “and yet” caveats involve ethnicity and complacency.

The vaccination data by ethnicity on the City of Alexandria website is a mixed bag. Because almost half of the people who have received COVID-19 vaccines are not identified by ethnicity, it’s difficult to make clear determinations about which ethnicities are being vaccinated and which aren’t.

But the data that’s available reveals that a higher percentage of Alexandria’s Latino population has been vaccinated than either white or Black residents. While Latinos make up roughly 17% of the city’s residents, they have received 12% of the reported vaccines to date, according to the city’s website. White residents are 52% of the city’s population, while 26% of those who have received the vaccine to date have been identified as white.

What is troubling is that only 6% of vaccine recipients to date identified as Black, while Black residents make up 21% of the city’s total population. It would appear that greater outreach and trust-building is needed in Alexandria’s Black community.

Our second caveat involves complacency. We are not quite ready to wrap up our “Wear a mask. Save a life.” campaign here at the Alexandria Times.

We began urging city residents to wear masks in early April last year, before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Virginia state government or the City of Alexandria. And even though those three entities now say it’s alright to cease wearing masks in most indoor settings, we encourage residents to choose caution over haste.

Yes, there’s a lot of good news surrounding COVID-19 right here, right now. But in other parts of the world, India and Brazil in particular, cases and deaths are surging, and new, highly contagious variants continue to emerge.

Because this is a global disease that continues to mutate, none of us are truly safe until there’s herd immunity around the world – and that’s still a ways from being a reality. So, by all means resume life as normally as possible, but to businesses and residents alike, we say “Keep wearing that mask indoors. You still just might save a life.”