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Some cities could return to indoor masking. Here’s what you need to know.

Some cities could return to indoor masking.  Here's what you need to know.
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Each of these developments is alarming in its own way. But none of them seem to have shaken public consciousness in the way previous pandemic news might have. in the CNN’s latest national pollCovid-19 was a key concern for just 26% of voters, far behind the economy, abortion and the climate crisis.
There is a good reason for this: a significant one percentage of Americans get vaccinated — although the percentage who have received a booster shot is lower — and there are new treatments that offer better outcomes for those who get the virus. For example, although Biden’s age puts him at risk for severe Covid-19 because of these advances, his experience with the coronavirus should be very different from that of President Donald Trump, who was hospitalized for days October 2020. (Biden, who is double boosted, receives the antiviral Paxlovidand wrote his doctor Sunday that his “symptoms continue to improve significantly.”)

But with a sub-variant that can outmaneuver vaccination or immunity from recent Covid infections, our days of putting Covid-19 on the back burner could be numbered.

Take Los Angeles, for example, the second most populous city in the United States. Health officials say the high level of LA County’s Covid-19 community is universal Mask requirement indoorscould come into effect this week. While daily reported cases have leveled off with about 6,700 new cases a day, Department of Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week that the community level must go back to “moderate” by July 28 to avoid falling on July 29. July there will be a mask requirement indoors.

And it’s not just LA responding to rising case numbers and hospital admissions. The proportion of the US population living in a county with a “high Covid-19 community level” where the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal indoor masking has increased in the past doubled in the last two weeks. And as Americans have switched to faster home testing, official case numbers reflect only a fraction of the true burden of the disease.

Therefore there is a renewed discussion about indoor masking, with Boston, for example by issuing a new mask recommendation earlier this month. But much depends on local politics, and the merits of such measures – particularly mandates – remain controversial.

For this we turned to Dr. Leana Wen, medical analyst at CNN and professor of public health at George Washington University. Our conversation, which was emailed and edited slightly for flow and brevity, is below.

What matters: Does the recent spike in Covid-19 cases necessitate a return of indoor mask requirements?

WHOM: There is a big difference between a recommendation for individuals to wear a mask and a government-imposed mask requirement. Government mandates for public health precautions should be used sparingly for emergencies where there is no other option. This is not that time.

I worry that trust will be so eroded that if a mask mandate is indeed needed – if there is a much deadlier variant, or if hospitals are once again overwhelmed – there will be no appetite at that point to accept mitigation measures.

What matters: What should lawmakers consider when considering whether to reintroduce indoor mask requirements?

WHOM: In addition to mask requirements, there are now other tools. This isn’t 2020. I would advise lawmakers to use other tools that are very effective in reducing the likelihood of serious illness, but don’t come with such a backlash – for example, why not surge boosters and Paxlovid? Why not push for testing before meetings?

What matters: At this point in the pandemic, when should we mask ourselves on an individual level and when can we not?

WHOM: It depends on the person and how much they still want to avoid Covid-19. Those who prioritize avoiding infection should continue to mask – but make sure they use an N95 or equivalent (KN95 or KF94), that it fits well and that they use it in all indoor public spaces.

There are many who no longer prioritize avoiding Covid as they are well protected from serious illnesses due to vaccines and treatments; They may not want to put their masks on even when there is a high level of transmission around them. That’s why government mask requirements make no sense at all this point in the pandemic.

What matters: Is there anything else you would like to add to this?

WHOM: It is both true that masks reduce the risk of virus transmission and the requirement to wear masks is very controversial. I urge lawmakers to focus on tools that don’t provoke as much public backlash and that do as much – or even more – than government-imposed masking.

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