Why COVID-19 Mask Mandates May Be Coming Back Soon

What makes this summer so much different than last summer is that we have multiple COVID-19 vaccines and over 50% of the American population has had at least one dose of a COVID vaccine (via Mayo Clinic). With vaccines, there's been a welcome decrease in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths (via The New York Times). So many states are loosening mask mandates, and the CDC released updated guidelines, as of June 17, 2021, that state "fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask." But even if you're fully vaccinated, don't toss your masks in the trash just yet.

While there has been a downward trend of COVID cases in the US, there has been an increase of the Delta variant; the current dominant variant is the Alpha variant (via The Wall Street Journal). "[The Delta variant is] more transmissible than the Alpha variant, or the U.K. variant, that we have here," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, told ABC News, "We saw that quickly become the dominant strain in a period of one or two months, and I anticipate that is going to be what happens with the delta strain here."

This rise in the US and around the world of the Delta variant has raised alarm bells for the World Health Organization (WHO) and they've released recommendations that are counter to the CDC's; even if someone is fully vaccinated, the WHO encourages continued mask wearing and social distancing to combat the new variant (via The New York Times).

Masks do help stop the spread of COVID-19

One supporter of that mask-on stance is University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix's Dr. Shad Marvasti, who told Yahoo Finance Live, "We don't want to wait until after the fact and get caught with this thing already ahead of us when we know that masks work. To put this in context, the Alpha variant, which originated out of the UK, was about 50% more infectious and transmissible. The Delta variant is 60% more infectious than that."

And in Los Angeles County, which was recently a part of the California reopening which allowed fully vaccinated individuals to ditch masks indoors, their Department of Health is now asking all residents, vaccinated or not, to keep their masks on inside (from The Los Angeles Times). And we know that mask wearing does decrease the spread of Covid-19, which, then lowers the rate of hospitalizations and death. A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association comparing mask mandates in Kansas counties confirmed that counties with mask mandates had lower COVID-19 cases compared to those counties without mask mandates.

Even with the more contagious variant on the rise and mask mandates either staying in place or coming back, it may be reassuring to know that scientific studies have shown fully vaccinated people are largely protected against symptomatic cases of COVID-19 from the Delta variant (via NPR).