We don’t know the long-term consequences of even a mild infection. Is a little more insurance from wearing a mask worth it? Yes. — Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, vice president for global initiative at the University of Pennsylvania
We don’t know the long-term consequences of even a mild infection. Is a little more insurance from wearing a mask worth it? Yes. — Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, vice president for global initiative at the University of Pennsylvania
Delta Variant’s Spread Prompts Reconsideration of Mask Guidance
Throughout the pandemic, masks have ranked among the most contentious public health measures in the United States, symbolizing a bitter partisan divide over the role of government and individual liberties.

Now, with a new variant of the coronavirus rapidly spreading across the globe, masks are again the focus of conflicting views, and fears, about the course of pandemic and the restrictions required to manage it.

The renewed concerns follow the wildfire growth of the Delta variant, a highly infectious form of the virus first detected in India and later identified in at least 85 countries. It now accounts for one in five infections in the United States.

In May, federal health officials said that fully vaccinated people no longer needed to mask up, even indoors. The advice signified a sea change in American life, setting the stage for a national reopening that continues to gain momentum.

But that was before the spread of the Delta variant. Worried by a global surge in cases, the World Health Organization last week reiterated its longstanding recommendation that everyone — including the inoculated — wear masks to stem the spread of the virus.

... The W.H.O.’s rationale for maintaining masking is that while immunization is highly effective at preventing severe illness and death, the degree to which vaccines prevent mild or asymptomatic infections is unknown. (Officials at the C.D.C. disagree, saying the risk is minimal.)

The W.H.O. maintains that vaccinated people should wear masks in crowded, close and poorly ventilated areas, and should continue with other preventive measures, like social distancing.

“What we’re saying is: ‘Once you’ve been fully vaccinated, continue to play it safe, because you could end up as part of a transmission chain. You may not actually be fully protected,’” Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to the W.H.O., said at a news briefing last week.

Even countries with relatively high vaccination rates have seen an increase in infections driven by the Delta variant. Britain, where some two-thirds of the population have received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine and just under half have received two doses, is nonetheless grappling with a sharp rise in infections from the variant.

It is not certain what course the Delta variant will take in the United States. Coronavirus infections have been plunging for months, as have hospitalizations and deaths. But Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, has called the variant “the greatest threat” to eliminating the virus in the United States.

... Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, vice president for global initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, said the arrival of the variant should prompt a rethinking of mask mandates.

He still wears a mask indoors in public places like grocery stores, and even on crowded city sidewalks. “We don’t know the long-term consequences of even a mild infection,” he said, referring to so-called long Covid. “Is a little more insurance from wearing a mask worth it? Yes.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/29/health/coronavirus-delta-variant-masks.html