Dr. Bow Tie
COVID-19 and Vaccines: Masking Guidelines Update
MASKING REQUIREMENTS UPDATE: New York State waited until a Friday evening to announce that on Monday they're changing masking recommendations again. They are not the only state taking similar (mis)steps. People much more prominent than I have made similar posts to mine, in which we asked for cautious, consistent guidelines and state rules for reducing masking requirements, conscientious of the fact that a majority are not vaccinated yet, especially in school-aged populations. Instead they swung the pendulum so far the other way in their interpretation that we could be left more vulnerable to new variants’ spread. Starting Monday, masks are "encouraged but not required" for anyone not fully vaccinated. This is the opposite of what we should be doing, especially at a time when we’re seeing infections with the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) soaring in the UK after they put policies like this in place.
According to the most recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), out of 204 adolescents hospitalized for COVID-19 during January through March of this year, almost 1/3 were admitted to the ICU, and 5% required a ventilator. That's too many, from a disease that is semi-preventable with adequate measures. And keep in mind that kids can also get PAS-C ("Long COVID"), too - they don't always bounce back easily.
There are a couple of weeks of school left in NYS. Most 12- to 15-year-olds who are getting vaccinated still have about that time before immunity kicks in, and no one <12 is vaccinated yet except in trials. I strongly urge mask-wearing in schools and camps, especially indoors. Again, in my opinion this should have been the norm for the past year and a half. We have a significant amount of evidence that masks work, and we have time and time again disproven any disinformation about masks causing issues. Children adapt well to masks if they have role models showing them how to wear and how to be consistent with them. There is no reason we should not still be masking indoors in schools when we know how much children can spread COVID-19 to adults and how sick some of them will get with the new variants.
Regardless, for the protection of our children and other adults, every adult that can be vaccinated should be vaccinated. This includes if you've had COVID-19 already. "Natural immunity" is hit-or-miss at best, is not shown to last long, doesn't prevent transmission to others if you get exposed again, and doesn't protect you from the newer variants which are proving more dangerous to children and adults alike, vs. vaccine-mediated immunity which is proven effective against original type and the new variants, lasts longer than natural immunity more consistently, is being shown to prevent transmission, and in people who have had COVID-19 before, creates a more stable immunity than "natural" immunity alone! If you're immunocompromised, you are still encouraged to get the vaccine. There is a chance you may not mount the same immune response, but it's not a live vaccine so you are not endangered by the vaccine.
For everyone - things like myocarditis and Bell's Palsy have not been shown to be any more frequent among the vaccinated than general population, and even the blood clots were exceedingly rare. Your chance of getting any of these or other problems is far more likely with an actual COVID-19 infection than with the vaccine. And again, for the sake of our children - and all of our fellow humans - we must get as many people vaccinated as possible.
Once again: this doesn't restrict schools and businesses from making their own rules as long as these minimum requirements are fulfilled. So if you're entering an establishment that requires a mask or asks for proof of vaccination (which they're allowed to do), then wear the mask or show a vaccination card. Definitely do not be an asshole about it.
Lastly, attached to this post is a picture from Dr. Eric Topol depicting the new nomenclature of the main variants of concern. We’ll be referring to them by Greek letters from now on to make it easier. As always, I welcome your questions.
After I made this post, I got some comments on Facebook from fellow medical friends of mine who provided additional insight. I'll make another post with their discussion, because they bring up some great points that everyone ought to read, along with some data.