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A customer exits a corner market in Manhattan.

A customer exits a corner market in Manhattan. Credit: AP/John Minchillo

Did you do a little jig? Maybe a fancy two-step? Did you feel something deep down, like a frisson of joy? Perhaps you smiled, or simply breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps it wasn't quite like V-J or V-E Day. But it was something.

The masks can come off, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week, if you're fully vaccinated. Much of the time, anyway. Most of the time outdoors, for sure. All of the time when you're with others like you.

And if you closed your eyes, you could see freedom's finger gesturing. Come with me, it said.

And yet …

It's not that simple, is it? Not for some of us, at least.

We've being watching carefully as the infection rates fall and the vaccination rates rise and the deaths dwindle to a precious few, and we've been waiting for good news like what the CDC delivered Thursday. It meshed well with the optimism that rides in on gorgeous spring weather, the confidence that swells knowing that glorious summer will soon follow, and the feeling that anything is possible now that the Knicks have made the playoffs.

And yet …

We've been through a lot. And there's still a lot we don't know. And by "we" I mean all of us, plus the doctors and other experts who know so much more than all of us.

None of us, for example, knows how many of the mask-less people we will see in stores and other indoors places in the days ahead have not been vaccinated at all. Given that many of them probably feel even less incentive to continue wearing masks now that the rest of us have permission to shed them, it seems like a safe bet to say it will be a pretty decent number. Think back to the height of winter and the height of infections and remember the folks who flaunted their masklessness then. Perhaps this will inspire those who are genuinely on the vaccine fence to get off and get a shot.

The maskless unknowns are a concern because we know the vaccines aren't perfect. They're great — amazing, actually — but not foolproof, a point also driven home last week when a platoon of Yankees employees, each fully vaccinated, tested positive for COVID-19. Yes, they had gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and, yes, it is less effective than the Moderna and Pfizer shots. But still, these were fully-vaccinated people with the virus.

Even the estimable Dr. Anthony Fauci contributed to the lingering concerns when asked at a town hall on the eve of the CDC announcement how long the vaccines would be effective. "We don't know," the good doctor said, "but we know it's at least several months, likely considerably longer than that."

That's a lot of wiggle room. It suggests that we're not going to know when the vaccine wears off until it does, and people who thought they were protected start testing positive.

Now add to that the CDC's warning that even fully-vaccinated people must wear masks on airplanes and public transportation and in doctor's offices, hospitals, nursing homes, airports, bus stations, prisons, and homeless shelters. And the warning that the virus is constantly mutating and more dangerous strains against which vaccines are not as effective could arise.

So, yes, it feels wonderful to be told we don't have to be so tied to our masks. But I hope we all are respectful of the uncertainties at work here — the actual uncertainties, not the made-up ones — and people's responses to them.

For some of us, it makes more sense to keep caution close to one's vest than to throw it to the wind.

Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday's editorial board.

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