As the number of hospitalizations associated with Covid’s cases declines nationwide, Americans exhausted by a two-year pandemic are increasingly asking when the mask will come off indoors.
“Not yet,” says both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many infectious disease experts.
Last summer, the CDC recommended indoor masking to communities recording an average of 50 Covid cases per 100,000 inhabitants, or a community recording either a positive test rate of at least 8%.
In addition to these basic measures, the CDC lists other factors that can help the community decide when to mitigate the masking protocol.
A CDC report From July 2021, vaccination rates and the effects of the virus on local hospitals have also been cited as factors in considering when to mitigate masking.
CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky admitted that Americans are keen to throw away their masks. “We know people are worried,” she said Wednesday during the White House Covid-19 Task Force briefing.
Although new cases have fallen by more than a third compared to last week, she said many hospitals continue to be overwhelmed by Covid’s cases, especially because they are highly contagious. Omicron variant It has taken root. The average of 7 days of hospitalization is about 17,100 per day.
“Our hospitalization rates are still quite high,” Warensky said, and hospitalization and death data should also be an important factor in deciding when and when mitigation guidance, such as masking, should be lifted. I added that.
Other experts suggest that the metrics for deciding the use of masks should not be limited to the region, or even the United States.
“We need to think of this as a global virus,” said Dr. Pedro Piedra, a professor of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Piedra suggested adding some insight into how much the entire world is vaccinated against Covid-19. “Therefore, a wave of these viruses will not invade the United States.”
“We fully understand that we are about to return to normal society, but the truth is that the virus did not come to our demands,” Piedra said. “It has come, and it has had a great social impact on death and hospitalization in the United States and many other countries.”
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One of the most obvious examples of the global effects of coronavirus is the Omicron mutant, which has become dominant in the United States. Within 1 month After being first detected in southern Africa.
In addition, according to the CDC, a potentially more contagious subvariant of Omicron, called BA.2, has been detected in 1.5% of cases in the United States.
Warensky said Wednesday that it may be premature for the United States to lift most mitigations, including masking. She said that in other countries where BA.2 was detected, cases of Covid are declining, but the rate seems to be slow.
That’s why the United States is currently implementing these measures, Warensky added, and many of these countries have also relaxed Covid’s regulations.
vaccinationThe inclusion of boosters has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of serious illness with Covid-19, even among breakthrough infections with Omicron. Less than half of the US population targeted for booster shots has booster shots. CDC data..
Still, it is higher than many other countries, especially low-income countries.
“We do not prioritize vaccination worldwide,” said Dr. Ranu Dillon, a global health physician at Harvard Medical School in Boston and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “This will be the solution to thwart new variants.”
Until then, masking across the United States remained part of the solution, and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said at a White House briefing Wednesday.
“We cannot guarantee that there will be no other variants that challenge us, but the best we can do is to prepare with the tools we have: vaccination, boost immunization, testing. ,masking.”
Julia Lifeman, an assistant professor and health policy researcher at Boston University, said there was no quick solution to the pandemic.
“This pandemic will last in the long run,” she said. “With new variants, seasonality, and weakened immunity, we need to tackle a continuous surge.”
According to Reifman, one of the best ways to manage the continued spread of airborne viruses is to use masking. “We know what works.”