- Ricksel Penullar
Are We Done With Masks?
Masking up is one of the first things we did to slow the spread of Covid-19, and it worked. Study after study had shown that when we implemented and followed mask mandates, cases fell. However, those mandates are being lifted, and guidance from public health experts is changing. It feels like we are headed toward a new phase in the pandemic; however, it is not over yet. In the third year of Covid-19, what do we do with the masks? The ideal risk of mitigation is to have everyone wearing masks. However, of course, we will not wear masks all the time for the rest of our lives. Moving forward individuals in most cases will feel like they are in a higher risk setting where they want to wear a mask. Fortunately, evidence shows that masks still offer protection even if you are the only person wearing one especially N95 or KN95 types, which have proven to be exceptionally effective. This applies even if you are vaccinated and boosted. Layering your protection can reduce the chance of breakthrough infection. I would hope that people would view masks as a beautiful, inexpensive medical intervention.
So when you are deciding whether or not to mask up, consider the weather, which can rapidly change from week to week, if it's looking bad, you might want to bring an umbrella and wear a mask. We are in an evolving situation. We have been since the beginning of 2020. However, there are some principles that we need to follow here—starting with how we can assess the case rates or hospitalizations around the community. So looking at cases per 100,000, you want it to be at least under 10 per 100,000, ideally in single digits, and this isn't just for one day. You could look at a 7 or 14 day average for an area. Luckily you can find that data on many websites, including the CDC and New York Times, John Hopkins, or even Google searching. These numbers will change depending on the location and over time. There is some evidence that could eventually end up like the seasonal flu, which means cases may drop in the spring or summer only for it to spike again in the fall and winter. Next, it is essential to consider the environment. Being outside is an excellent start.
We are heading into spring, and there will be less tendency to be indoors and in crowded spaces. Poorly ventilated spaces, for example, helps with the reduction of transmission. However, if you are indoors, you should consider a few things. Ventilation and the number of people. The size of the space and then the time you spend in that space. Those are the main factors. A packed indoor concert, for example, will be at a higher risk than going to a grocery store where the people are more spaced out. Evens or locations that check vaccination status or require negative tests are even at lower risk. However, even then, you need to consider one factor yourself. That includes assessing your own risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and possibly even death.
Moreover, that has to do with your underlying medical conditions, whether or not you are immunosuppressed, whether or not you have been vaccinated and boosted. Even if you are at lower risk, you should consider how dangerous infection could be for people closest to you. We have learned a lot since the beginning of the pandemic. You have heard of it a thousand times. We are all in this together, and your actions and decisions will affect those around you.