Do we still need to wear a mask?

Image courtesy

It has been more than two years since COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic.

The virus is still very much a threat with a new variant as cases are still alarmingly high across the United States.

At the same time, many believe the measures to reduce transmission — like wearing a mask — should be a thing of the past.

The recent surge in positive cases is reportedly caused by the Omicron variant, first reported in December of last year. Omicron has less severe symptoms than the first Delta variant but is still extremely contagious.

“We have and continue to recommend masking in areas of high transmission, and that is essentially everywhere.” Dr. Rochelle Wilensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a news conference.

The CDC has been consistent in publishing COVID-19 updates through data trackers, along with other important developments. It is reported that the total number of positive cases has declined within the last two weeks following the recent surge. But the community transmission rate is still high across the country, as more than 250,000 new cases were reported on Wednesday.

Healthcare personnel believes it would be in the community’s best interest to continue to take provisions like social distancing, mask-wearing, and increasing the vaccination rates to help further minimize the spread of the virus.

“We don’t know what may happen with the disease process in another year,” said Tanya Tatum, director of FAMU’s Student Health Services. “Actions that aid in a positive outcome for the populace should be considered.”

Following a decline in positive cases, state officials are looking to transition from a pandemic phase into an epidemic phase. This is because the effects of the virus are less extreme than previously documented.

Many state governments agree that now is an appropriate time to lift the mask mandates. As one of the first states opposing requirements, Florida considers certain actions based on these mandates as discriminatory practices.

“Safety measures like this are in place to ensure the community is free from the dangers of the disease,” Florida Democratic state Rep Benjamin Christopher said. “Lifting restrictions does not help Floridians.”

Being vaccinated is proven to help fight against the infection but does not guarantee a complete safeguard against catching it. Added protection can be provided through wearing a mask, which has been an influential way to minimize infection.

No one can be sure about the direction the virus is headed, which does not help the public decide if they want to continue following recommendations as more states begin to relax COVID-19 restrictions.