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  • Writer's pictureDr. Bow Tie


The NYS Mask Mandate ends today, earlier than planned. I do not agree with this decision, but maybe that’s why I’m not governor. Some of you will automatically dismiss me after that sentence as some weird fictional straw man who wants masks indefinitely. Some of you think it’s worthless to do anything to mitigate the pandemic anymore so we should just let it rip. But 3,000 people died from COVID two days ago, nearly 18,000 in the past week. As we near 1 million American deaths in the coming weeks, we must acknowledge that ignoring the pandemic won’t make it go away. Instead, hear me out:

We should have learned a lesson in April 2021 when vaccines were rolling out and, despite the objections of most scientific communicators, we dropped mask mandates prematurely, before vaccination rates were anywhere near sufficient, and the summer surge hit a couple of months later.

Dr. Maria Pyra on Twitter states it well: “our behaviors (interacting with the virus) cause these surges. So putting protections in place early can reduce surges. And keeping those protections in place can drive surges down faster and lower.”

Now, our lack of vaccination and poor consistency with mitigation measures have encouraged a new variant that is more contagious than previous ones, and that means things have changed. Not because Hochul or Biden or any other government entity said so, but because the virus is forcing us here. Unfortunately the vaccination threshold has changed, too, and now boosters/third doses are needed to combat Omicron. I’ve already talked this month about how this doesn’t mean vaccines aren’t working - we have to do our part with them.

99% of the US is still in a state of high transmission (pic below), and there is still one subset of the population that is more vulnerable to the new variant (both in infection and as a vector to infect others) yet cannot get vaccinated. Kids aged 6 months to 5 years need the protection of a vaccine (to be discussed next week at FDA VRBPAC). Mask mandates haven’t been dropped from schools yet, but I have a feeling it’s only a matter of time. Los Angeles County just announced that they would wait to drop mask mandates until they were at a level of “moderate“ transmission and their youngest children would finally been able to receive the vaccine. Why wouldn’t we all

wait until we can protect our most precious population (as we recover from the worst adult and pediatric infection surge since the pandemic started)? Why are we still, at this point intentionally, putting ourselves behind the eight ball? Why are we intentionally exposing cracks in the armor we have against this virus?

From the start, masks have been politicized just like every aspect of this pandemic, but masks work. We know that for a fact. Even cloth masks are not perfect, and they are somewhat user-dependent (thick weave, over nose and mouth, as little adjustment as possible once on), but they work.

Now the virus has evolved, but so has our understanding, and more importantly the federal government has finally caught up to what it should have done 2 years ago - N95s and tests are being supplied to everyone (or at least made reimbursable), allowing for a more equitable approach to our pandemic response.

See below for, in addition to several other articles, a new CDC MMWR that shows how masks lower the risk of infection.

Republicans and anti-masker folks succumbed to a nirvana fallacy early on, that of "if it's not 100%, it's worthless” (similar to anti-vaxxer sentiment) but that has never been the drive behind masking. It is a layer of protection accompanied by other layers such as distancing and vaccines. Every one of my posts has said that.

I say all this to say, even though mask mandates are being prematurely dropped for now, if you’re going to be in an indoor crowd or around people whose vaccination status or immune system status you don’t know, or if you’re in a workplace around potentially immunocompromised folks (who do not have any obligation to tell you, but who would benefit from protection), consider wearing a mask.

Not planning to wear a mask? Still want to drop masks while trying to prevent another surge? Use other measures. Test before you leave the house if going out to a public space (a show/concert, a coffee date, etc.).

And PLEASE get vaccinated. If it’s been >2 months since J&J or >5 months since an mRNA vaccine, get an mRNA booster. 900,000 people have died, and we’re soon to hit the 1 million mark. That’s incredibly sad and it could have been prevented. Vaccinate for yourself, for your loved ones, and for the children.

And because people still want to claim masks don’t work, here are articles shared from past posts:

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