Wear a mask and get vaccinated as the United States is now averaging about 23,346 new delta variant cases a day over the past seven days, a 97% increase from the week prior, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. “We can’t have it both ways; we can’t be both unmasked and non-socially distant and unvaccinated. That won’t work,” Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a CNN medical analyst, and professor of medicine and surgery at The George Washington University, said Monday, July 12.
The delta variant also known as the B.1.617.2 is a highly contagious COVID-19 strain that is rapidly increasing the risk of new waves of infection as the country fully reopens. This is particularly concerning due to dangerously low levels of vaccine uptake in some states and groups, including children under the age of 12. Other facts we know are that the delta variant has caused a surge in cases in highly vaccinated countries and that parts of Europe and Australia are back in lockdown.
Since these announcements, many of my patients are asking my opinion on the need for masks, so I am sharing my professional guidance on how best to proceed. Clearly wearing a mask is a personal decision but if you are still uncertain about the best way to protect you and your loved ones, I recommend considering the following:
- You can still contract COVID-19 after being vaccinated
- People who are immunocompromised are at greater risk, even after vaccination
- Evidence is clear that wearing masks reduces the likelihood of getting sick
- According to the CDC, only 47% of Americans are vaccinated
- You do not know who is and who isn’t vaccinated
- Medical experts are unclear as to whether our existing vaccines protect us from new variants
- The FDA, CDC, and NIH are still determining if and when a booster might be necessary
- The World Health Organization (WHO) is encouraging vaccinated Americans to wear masks and the White House is leaving pandemic restrictions to each state
- Mask use is likely to become a common response to future outbreaks during this pandemic
- Some states mandate and medical experts recommend that even vaccinated individuals should wear masks in health care and long-term care facilities, prisons, homeless shelters, on public transit, and in transportation hubs like airports and train stations
- Businesses and other organizations may still have their own mask policies
- Children under the age of 12 are not vaccinated and can get sick and/or transmit the virus
- “Long hauler” COVID is a threat, leaving various symptoms ranging in severity long after the infection has passed
As a physician, I have seen firsthand vaccinated patients who still contract COVID-19 and test positive for the virus. And there is much debate in the medical community about the impact this variant will continue to have in the United States. While studies are underway, we don’t have any prior evidence on exactly how to combat this pandemic. So, at this point I recommend continuing to practice the following:
- Get vaccinated if you are not already
- Wear a mask when in close proximity to others…both indoors and outdoors at events attracting people within a six-foot space
- Stay up to date on CDC recommendations for vaccination boosters and safe practices
- Get tested if you have COVID-19 related symptoms as you may still be sick even after being inoculated and could therefore spread the virus to others
- Quarantine for a minimum of 10-days should you, anyone in your family, or those with whom you are in close contact become sick
- If traveling, especially overseas, briefly quarantine upon your return and get tested 3-5 days after being home
- Thoroughly wash your hands between activities or when in public spaces
I very much wish for the continued health of our country and the world at large. During this time my family will be practicing the safety measures as I have highlighted above.
Should you have specific questions about your own health as related to COVID-19 or any other matters, please reach out to me directly. I am available via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 484-685-0033.
Yours in health!
Dr. Janine Darby of Lifestyle Changes