Some Areas Call for Masks to Come Back

The U.S. has been under an official “public health emergency” since January of last year. Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services repeated that the emergency still exists. A renewal has to be signed every 90 days. COVID-19 has waxed and waned for over a year — sometimes infection rates have been worse, sometimes better. Infection rates right now are alarming, but deaths are down significantly.

The Delta variant is no more deadly than the original version of COVID-19, and hospitals have gotten better at treating it. But, it spreads 55 percent more quickly. That has caused a startling surge in cases. It is in all 50 states; it makes up 83 percent of new infections, and hospitalizations were up 52 percent last week. If you are vaccinated, you’re largely protected from the strain. More than 97 percent of the cases in hospitals are unvaccinated people. And, 99.5 percent of the deaths from the Delta variant have been in unvaccinated people.

If you have been vaccinated but are older or immunocompromised, you are at a higher risk for infection than other people who have been vaccinated. But, you are still more protected than you would be without a vaccine. These infections are what doctors call “breakthrough infections” where the virus gets past your immune system. If it happens, you are far less likely to show symptoms or become seriously ill.

Dr. Amy Edwards, the associate medical director of Pediatric Infection Control at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, explained breakthrough infections. “Even if the vaccine isn’t offering full protection it is offering a lot of protection. Even when they do not work as well in patients who are immunocompromised, they do provide some protection. That’s why it’s up to the rest of us to get vaccinated because we want to protect those people, the fragile and the elderly, and everyone else.”

If you don’t want to get vaccinated or cannot be vaccinated, it’s important to wear a mask, keep your distance and wash your hands. Those measures do help protect you and prevent you from passing it on if you become ill. Some places have, or are considering, requiring everyone to wear a mask indoors again regardless of vaccination status. So far, it has been cities with high infection rates; we’ll have to wait and see what happens elsewhere. You should always do your own research. Look at the infection rates in your area. If you have rapidly rising cases in your area, taking more precautions might be your best option whether or not you have been vaccinated.  

Banner image: Anshu A via Unsplash

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