ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions ease, there is concern over people who choose to remove their masks even though they haven’t been vaccinated.
Dr. Jeff Harp of Highland Family Medicine addressed those concerns Tuesday during News 8 at Sunrise.
What happens, as restrictions ease, if someone, or a large number of people, stop wearing their masks even though they’re not fully vaccinated?
While in many parts of the U.S. businesses have reopened, and mask mandates and social distancing guidelines have been lifted, behaviors that unvaccinated Americans can safely engage in at this stage of the pandemic remain largely unchanged.
The current thought is that between 70 and 90% of the U.S. population would need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to reach herd immunity. Right now, the U.S. has reached a milestone of half of all U.S. adults fully vaccinated against the virus.
Even now, with vast numbers of adults being vaccinated, we are still seeing new infections and, unfortunately, new hospitalizations and deaths. Of importance, these hospitalizations and deaths are overwhelmingly among adults who have not been vaccinated.
So, if there continues to be a risk in the community like there currently is, masks should be worn by unvaccinated people whenever there are risks of transmission.
Outdoors vs. indoors?
According to the CDC, unvaccinated Americans can safely participate in outdoor activities with members of their household, like running or biking, and attend small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated family and friends without wearing a mask if the others are comfortable with that. Unvaccinated people still should wear masks indoors and where physical distancing isn’t possible.
When in larger groups (more than 10 people), masking is the preferred route for all of those at the event, vaccinated or unvaccinated. Outdoors, unmasking may be considered in groups of more than 10 people if all are comfortable with no masking. But again, the larger the crowd, and the smaller the space between people, the more we encourage people to continue to wear a mask.
Risk to self?
Unvaccinated individuals are much more at risk of becoming ill from COVID-19, especially if they have other risk factors. Aside from being vaccinated, masking is the best way to protect yourself.
Risk to others?
Wearing a mask protects others around you since you are still susceptible to the disease and can have and transmit COVID-19 while having no or minimal symptoms. Remember that vaccination protects against severe disease, but not against all COVID infections. Vaccinated friends and family can still potentially get the disease from you.
What is the bottom line here?
The bottom line is that unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks in most settings. Specifically, this includes when attending small, outdoor gatherings with other unvaccinated people, going to the grocery store, visiting the barber or hair salon, going to a museum, and participating in exercise classes.