For months, the world anxiously awaited a vaccine that would help curb the spread of COVID19 and usher us back into a world of normalcy.
Since the vaccines have arrived, some of that normalcy has returned. Many people opt to spend more time with family and friends, dine out, go to the office, and attend events. What about masks? Can we get rid of them, or should we keep them on hand?
The Current State of Affairs: Delta Variant, Vaccination Rates & Masks
Deciding whether or not to mask up is nowhere near as straightforward as many would like. Efficacy reports suggest that vaccines are working to curb earlier COVID19 variants, which should give many fully vaccinated individuals a sense of relief.
And fortunately, many experts suggest that the most common vaccines (e.g., Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) are also effective against the Delta variant, which some research suggests is nearly 225% more contagious than earlier variants. As the days go on, reports of breakthrough cases—or cases among fully vaccinated individuals—are increasing, reminding us that even the best vaccines may not be 100% effective.
Another thing to consider as we reevaluate wearing masks is vaccination rates, which are slowing in the U.S. To date, nearly half of the population remains unvaccinated.
Part of that unvaccinated population includes those unwilling to get the vaccination. Another part of that population consists of individuals who are unable to receive the vaccine or, for children under 12, are too young to receive the vaccine.
Combined with recent spikes in cases, most of which have been linked to the Delta variant, this presents a scenario that favors mask use, even for vaccinated populations, at least in certain situations.
Moreover, masks can help us continue this battle by reducing the spread of existing variants. Since the virus can only mutate while in a host, masks help reduce the risk of new and potentially more dangerous variants.
When to Use a Mask
Despite the recent lift of some federal mask mandates, some U.S. locations, like Los Angeles County, are reinstatement mask mandates to stop another, potentially more dangerous, COVID19 surge.
It’s not just officials who are reconsidering the value of masks, however. Medical experts, like Carlos Oliveira, MD, Ph.D. of Yale Medicine, caution against throwing away the mask, at least for now. “There could be spikes in [coronavirus] transmission for a variety of reasons. And there is still a lot we don’t know; especially as new variants continue to emerge and enter the U.S.”
When should you consider masking up? Here are a few times an added layer of protection may be worth it:
- If you’re not fully vaccinated. If you’ve been avoiding or aren’t eligible to receive the vaccine, then you should wear a mask whenever you’re in any indoor public place. The same is true if you’ve only received a single dose of a two-dose vaccine.
- If you have a compromised immune system. Some medical conditions, treatments, and medications can weaken your immune system. If you fall into that category, wearing a mask can offer more protection.
- If you live with individuals who can’t get the vaccine or are immune-compromised. Parents of children under 12 may want to consider wearing masks when in crowded or public indoor settings. However, it’s still unclear how easily vaccinated individuals can spread the virus if infected.
- If you live in an area that is seeing a surge in cases. Keeping an eye on local caseloads can help you gauge community-based risk.
- If you’re entering a business or building that still requires masks. This is particularly true for public transportation locations, like airports and train stations, which are still subject to a federal mask mandate.
We’ve come a long way, and there continues to be positive progress that can help us treat and mitigate COVID19 infections, but don’t throw your mask away just yet. In some situations, especially those listed above, a mask can still be a smart accessory to keep on hand in the best interest of your health.
If you’re reconsidering your mask choice or need to purchase a new one, consider one of our TRU47 silver face masks. These masks leverage the antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties of silver to offer added layers of protection.
As a bonus, you won’t have to worry about washing them regularly—or at all.. Bacteria cannot live on silver, keeping them bacteria-free.