If you lie, you could still die. Or someone else could.
Consider this a reminder of how vital individual responsibility has become now that Gov. Tim Walz has lifted the statewide face mask mandate. Walz announced the move last Thursday after federal officials said those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer needed to mask in most situations.
Minnesotans who aren't vaccinated should still mask up. But with no easy way to check, it's up to those who haven't gotten the shot yet to act responsibly. And too many of them are motivated by anti-masking political rhetoric.
Forgoing a face covering before being fully vaccinated doesn't strike a blow against tyranny. Instead, it's fundamentally dishonest and reckless, putting family, friends and communities at risk with the virus continuing to circulate in Minnesota and so many people yet to be immunized.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made last week's announcement on masks with frustratingly little notice. The decision rests on a reassuring foundation — the vaccines are extraordinarily effective and safe.
But because there is no practical way for businesses or others to verify vaccination status, the state is now essentially on the honor system with vaccination rates still well below what's needed to stifle viral spread — generally estimated at between 70% and 90%.
In Minnesota, 61.7% of those eligible have gotten at least one shot, according to the state Department of Health. The figure for those who have completed the vaccination series is lower, at 53.3%. That's two shots for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and one for the Johnson & Johnson version.
Optimists argue that lifting the mask mandate might give Minnesota's vaccine holdouts additional incentive to act. The previous policy, which stipulated that vaccinated individuals still had to wear a mask, might have been a deterrent. With no mask needed afterward, the thinking goes, some might now go get the shot.
Skeptics — count the Star Tribune Editorial Board among them — have a less charitable view. COVID disinformation and the politicization of masks have enveloped public health in a toxic atmosphere. That may allow some to wrongly justify dishonesty about their vaccine status and not wearing a mask.
Those guilty of this might be OK with their own COVID risk and deficit of personal integrity. But if they become infected, they could spread the virus to those who aren't yet vaccinated. Or those who can't yet be vaccinated — mainly kids under age 12.
Lifting the mask mandate should have been a goal to work toward. Walz had it right initially when he announced on May 6 that the mask requirement would end by July 1 or sooner if Minnesota hit a 70% vaccination rate. Doing so would have left a critical protection in place while thousands more Minnesotans got vaccinated, including the newly eligible 12-15 age group.
The CDC's abysmal rollout of the new mask policy did not reflect well on its new director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, a President Joe Biden appointee. The sudden change created confusion for businesses and parents of children too young to be vaccinated, and the science behind the move has yet to be adequately explained.
Communications and coordination are critical skills for someone in Walensky's position. She needs to do better.