Like Covid vaccines, masks have become political in the US and in other countries around the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC eased masking guidelines last Friday. In parts of the country, especially states with Republican governors, masks have not been required for more than a year. And recently many areas run by Democrats have also dropped masking requirements.
But should you still wear a mask? Maybe, at least sometimes.
It depends on many factors including your vulnerabilities, the health of those you live with or are around, the level of infection in your community, the type of venue or event, and your level of risk aversion. For many, contracting Covid can be a very serious medical event. For others – especially healthy individuals who are vaccinated and boosted - it might be akin to having a flu or cold.
For most vulnerable in our society – the elderly, those in treatment for life-threatening conditions, people who have received organ transplants and some people with chronic conditions including Diabetes or high blood pressure – the risk of becoming very ill with Covid are simply too high. Not only should they continue to wear a mask, they should preferably wear an N95 respirator or an American-made earloop (KN95-style) mask. And anyone who lives with or comes into regular contact with vulnerable people should also continue to mask.
If Covid is still raging in your community, like it is throughout much of the South, you should also consider keeping your mask on in all public places.
Venues make a difference too. Getting on crowded public transportation without a mask, even if allowed, probably isn’t wise. Likewise, in a hospital, you should probably wear a mask at all times – to protect yourself and others.
Most healthy vaccinated adults are probably not going to wear masks outside, and except the cases detailed above, that’s probably reasonable.
There is a lot of evidence that the Covid vaccines prevent serious illness for most people, but there is less convincing data that they prevent infections, especially the more time that passes from the second shot or the booster. And despite the fact that we are all tired of Covid, we don’t know that the pandemic is over. At the very least, it’s likely to stay with us for a long time, just like colds and flus. It’s also possible that there will be surges of more damaging variants again soon.