My recent few days on Martha’s Vineyard were a shocking immersion into the world of the maskless.

I was alone in the car on the way to Woods Hole to catch the ferry to the Island, so I was surprised when I drove up to see a small crowd of boldly barefaced vacationers. It was a real mix — single travelers as well as families of several generations, grandparents, mothers and fathers and little kids — all freely milling about. And it was the first time in months, really more than a year, that I’d been in a group with no or few masks in evidence. I was relieved to see the masks appear, per Steamship Authority policy, as ferry riders boarded the boat. But, unlike during the height of the pandemic, once on board, most people took them off. By contrast, I was conspicuous in my mask wearing.

Last week’s CDC reversal of its previous inside-mask policy probably feels like whiplash to the mask-free folks who thought mask wearing was over. Instead, the Centers for Disease Control’s newest announcement is linked to the sharp rise in cases of the Delta variant, a mutation of the COVID-19 virus, which spreads faster, is more easily transmissible and some evidence indicates is the deadliest mutation. It’s been linked to the increased deaths across the country, almost all of which have been among the unvaccinated. And I’m freaked out by the evidence which shows that fully vaccinated people can have breakthrough infections of the Delta variant — with no symptoms — and pass on the infection.

Breakthroughs are rare, but still. The CDC’s renewed inside-mask policy is not broad based; it is targeted specifically to counties at highest risk for the Delta variant. And as GBH News' Gabrielle Emanuel reported, the policy is confusing since Boston falls under the reversed inside-mask policy, but nearby Somerville does not, though that city plans to follow the advisory. Governor Charlie Baker says Massachusetts “is in a much better position” because of the state's high rates of vaccinated residents, but nevertheless his office is reviewing possible changes to the statewide advisory on mask wearing. Meanwhile, I’m still worried about all of the unvaccinated people who have ignored the honor system, pretended to be vaccinated, and have been maskless among the rest of us.

One of my friends who works in a popular store on Martha’s Vineyard told me the shop’s owner was fretting about how to reinstate the inside-mask policy without turning off potential shoppers. Perhaps it will be easier now that Martha’s Vineyard public health officials followed the CDC announcement and issued an across-the-board indoor mask advisory for Dukes County, which includes most of the Island.

After my brief maskless break, I’m back to wearing a mask all the time. I’ll admit I felt both weird and peer pressured to take it off when I was on Martha’s Vineyard since few other people were wearing masks — except in the grocery stores where the mask requirement has been a constant.

The CDC inside-mask rule is advisory, but the White House has already declared a federal mask requirement for the two million in the federal workforce. That’s in addition to requiring all federal employees be vaccinated. Tech giants Facebook and Google have moved past a mask mandate to requiring all employees get vaccinated. Vaccine holdouts are now under a lot of pressure — as they should be — to do what they should have long ago before the Delta variant spiked rising infection rates. Or before they end up in the hospital on a ventilator, or worse.

Frustration and anger with the CDC’s changing policy is misplaced. Much as we’d like to have absolute certainty, it’s just not possible in addressing an ever-mutating, life-threatening virus. Scientists need enough data to assess best next steps, or in this case, to make an unpopular decision to return to a former best practice. If there was ever a better-safe-than-sorry situation, this is it. I’m not looking forward to being uncomfortable and a little sweaty wearing my mask during these humid summer days. But I’m looking forward to next summer when I hope this is all no more than a bad memory.