In the turmoil of the last two years, including deadly pandemics, massive layoffs, ugly presidential elections, and attacks on the U.S. Capitol, some of America’s most intense political debates have revolved around near-gravity. I did. Fabric: Face mask.
US officials have been slow to adopt face masks as a strategy to slow the spread of the coronavirus.When they finally did, the mask became a powerful symbol of the pandemic — common sense. Public health measures Turned around Political flash point And it visibly reminds us that life was unusual.
With rear-view mirror summer delta surges and vaccinations for school-aged children currently underway, many Americans are wondering when the mask will eventually come off.
Dr. Stephen Ruby, an infectious disease expert and epidemiologist at Stanford University, said: “The best science supports wearing masks as an effective strategy to reduce Covid-19.” The question is how long and under what circumstances. ” Do you guys wear masks for the rest of your life? “He added.
Some civil servants are already planning the end.On Tuesday, Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced requirements for indoor masks. Will loosen..The next day, Florida Parliamentarian Passed a bill banning school mask obligations, Some districts had already abandoned.
“If the health authorities decide it’s safe, we want to withdraw the mask obligations at school,” New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams said in an email.
The expert said that time hadn’t come yet.
Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said: “We may be fed up with Covid and Covid’s restrictions and public health measures, but the virus has certainly not been with us yet.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a community of viral infections, even for fully vaccinated people.Substantial or expensive.. ” Current, Approximately 85 percent The percentage of US counties meets that threshold, which is defined as at least 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants each week.
It is safer to relax Mask requirements Scientists said early next year after more children were completely vaccinated and the vacation travel season had passed. And they said that voluntary mask wearing would continue to be useful not only in certain situations, but also in future cold and flu seasons.
“We don’t want to put away all the masks,” Dr. Ruby said.
Some evidence confirms the effectiveness of face masks as a public health intervention.
Laboratory studies have shown that even basic cloth masks can be blocked. 50% or more Small aerosols; Surgical masks and N95 respirators are even better.And actual research suggests that State-wide When The whole school The mask requires that the spread of the virus be suppressed.
Randomized trials conducted by Dr. Ruby and his colleagues in 600 villages in Bangladesh Mask wearing intervention, Free mask distribution and multi-faceted messaging campaigns have significantly increased mask wear and reduced Covid cases. (This study has not yet been published in a scientific journal.)
All of these studies have their limits, but together, Many similar analyzes, To make a clear conclusion.
Linsey Marr, an aerial virus expert at Virginia Tech, said:
Face masks are not without their drawbacks. “They interfere with communication,” said Dr. Ma. “They can be uncomfortable.”
Some people with disabilities may not be able to wear a mask, and how to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of masking infants who are far less likely to get a serious illness from the virus than adults. There is still debate. (According to the CDC, children under the age of 2 Do not wear a mask, World Health Organization It is recommended not to request Mask for children under 6 years old. )
However, given that most people tolerate masks well and wearing masks is far less confusing than other mitigations such as blockades. According to experts, face masks are an important tool in managing a pandemic.
Richard Stat, an infectious disease modeler at the University of Cambridge, said: “Wearing a mask is very low cost compared to most other interventions.”
However, Mask’s obligations were not intended to last forever, and as cases declined and vaccine eligibility expanded this fall, some civil servants began to consider ways to end them.
This month, the Los Angeles County Public Health Service Announced the standard, Includes specific vaccination and infection benchmarks, and removes some of the indoor masking requirements.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently said he wanted to remove the state’s school mask mission. “”Sooner or laterIt highlighted the idea that teenage students would start with a high school that was eligible for vaccination for several months and then phase out the requirement.
However, according to experts, it is premature to relax the requirements for masks, especially in the winter months, when people spend more time indoors, people who are far away on vacation trips gather, and respiratory viruses It circulates easily.
“It’s not time for me to reduce my mask obligations,” Dr. Ruby said.
Dr. Ma recommended that school masks not be lifted until winter vacation is over and more school-aged children have the opportunity to take both shots. “Yes, let’s get rid of the mask,” she said, if the community had low or moderate levels of infection a few weeks after school was reopened in January.
Seema Lakdawala, a respiratory virus expert at the University of Pittsburgh, imagined a similar timeline. “Maybe in February, I can say goodbye to the mask.”
Other experts hesitated to provide the date. Dr. Limoan said he hopes to reduce the number of cases and deaths more sustainably before relaxing the requirements for masks. “We are still seeing 1,000 people die a day from this virus,” she said. “It’s not just a matter of comfort and comfort-that is, it’s a matter of life and death for many.”
The future of face masks
Scientists emphasize that relaxing mask restrictions needs to be a regional decision based on a complex set of factors such as regional infection rates, vaccination rates, and the vulnerability of the population in question. Did.
“If an outbreak is occurring in a region or a particular community, I think it makes a lot of sense for people in that community to wear masks, even if things are well controlled nationwide. “Dr. Stutt said.
And wearing a mask is not all-or-nothing. Even after the obligation has been lifted, it makes sense for some people (for example, the elderly and people with immunodeficiency) to wear masks in certain situations and settings. Scientists said people need to be prepared to put their masks back in preparation for a future surge.
Experts also expressed hope that the new mask wearing standards may last longer than pandemics. Face masks may help reduce infections with other respiratory viruses, and experts plan to continue wearing masks in some environments, such as planes and buses, during the upcoming flu season. I said there is.
“Before the pandemic, there was a stigma associated with wearing a mask in this country, but I think it was normalized in many places,” Dr. Ma said. (Still, she admitted, “I don’t think anyone else will ever wear a mask.”)
Dr. Rakdawara expressed hope that in certain high-risk situations, people may feel short mask wear as other pandemic restrictions are relaxed.
“Once people are accustomed to vaccination, can meet friends and family, and find that they can go out for normal activities in a safe way, they need to put on a mask on the bus and get on the job for 20 minutes. Is not considered, “she said. “It is seen as a way to protect yourself and your family.”
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