I think the ethical question which often arises where masks are concerned is the disparity between people not wearing masks when they require others to wear masks. For example, there was an event in the United States recently called the Met Gala which is attended by numerous high-profile celebrities (including politicians). Videos show the celebrities not wearing masks while the employees working at the event were required to wear masks. One can’t help get the impression of a hierarchy of social and economic classes where the rich live by one set of rules and the hired help live by another.
A local group I’m involved with is running a retreat next month and we’re requiring masks (inside) and vaccination certificates (which are also issued to those who have some reason not to get vaccinated). Also self testing before and in the middle of the retreat. With the Omicron variant, a non-vaccinated person is unlikely to be much more infections than a vaccinated one, and the vaccination rates in NZ are very high anyway, so the vaccination requirement is rather irrelevant. As far as I am aware, the consensus is that masks slow down the rate of transmission, so the mask requirement seems reasonable. It’s possible that a mask is uncomfortable for some, but I wear a mask when I go to meditation at our local monastery, and it’s much less noticeable when sitting in meditation then when walking about in a mall or at work.
It depends on the place and the situation. Here we just follow whatever the current Govt. guidelines are.
Vaccinations have proven extremely safe and effective. As far as I’m concerned, if you are so detached from reality that you don’t get that, you won’t understand the Dhamma either so you’re not missing out on anything by not going.
As for masks, my understanding is that they have a limited effectiveness in indoor settings if used properly. They should be used in cases that require it (such as hospitals or public transport), and otherwise it’s up to the individual. I’m wary of over-regulating the use of masks, as it leads to sloppy mask-wearing and resentment of the rules.
The White House Press Conference Dinner was only open to vaccinated and boosted participants.
Indoor events are still not safe.
Before you go to a retreat center make sure to ask them if they have vaccination requirements ( one large organization is lifting those requirements ) and if they use masks. Of course, make sure you are vaccinated and boosted too.
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As a physician, may I say that there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach with respect to masks, (regarding vaccinations, there’s no scientific debate about their effectiveness in reducing hospitalizations and death).
Hopefully, bivalent and multi-valent vaccines, version 2.0, will be available soon-ish. These may offer more long-lasting and more effective protection. (not easy, since the Covid virus is a shape-shifter).
In the meantime, regarding masks, much depends on the level of active infections in your area. In places with high or rising case loads, masks are more important for protection; less so in areas with low prevalence of the disease. This information can of course be checked on local govt. and medical websites.
Also, we now have reasonably accurate rapid tests which people can do before they go to a meeting or a retreat.
If all attendees have no symptoms, no known recent contact with a person diagnosed with Covid, and have a negative rapid test, and have been vaccinated, it’s reasonably safe – though not 100% – for them to attend a group session.
But wearing masks can add another level of protection, in either case.
Sadly, a gathering to celebrate Ajahn Sumedho’s 75th birthday had to be cancelled due to several confirmed Covid cases at the monastery. So this pandemic is not where it was 2 years ago, but it ain’t over yet.
Taking appropriate precautions is an example of caring for, and protecting, others while doing the same for ourselves.