Some health experts increasingly demand that restrictions on masks be eased for outdoor activities.
Masks protect against coronavirus infection, but with more than 84 million adults in the United States fully vaccinated against Covid-19, there is growing doubt about whether wearing masks outdoors is still necessary.
On Thursday, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told “TODAY” that the agency is considering revising its mask guideline.
“We will be looking at the issue of external masking, but also in the context of the fact that we still have people dying from Covid-19,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
In states where mask orders are still in effect, there are moves to loosen restrictions on exteriors. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper expects to lift restrictions, including a mandate for external masks, until June 1. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is considering a change in the orientation of the outer masks by June. Connecticut will eliminate outdoor mask requirements in mid-May, along with the transition from internal mask rules from mandate to guidance.
Some health experts are increasingly calling for restrictions on masks to be eased for outdoor activities.
“We know that the virus spreads widely indoors and there is very little transmission outside, except in some very specific circumstances,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health. “At this point in the pandemic, with more than half of Americans vaccinated, it is quite reasonable to start thinking about peeling off prescriptions for external masks.”
Masks should be worn during large outdoor meetings, where people stay together for an extended period of time, such as a rally or sporting events in crowded arenas, he said. But overtaking someone on the street or running without a mask is a very low-risk situation.
“It is probably not necessary for everyone on the street to wear one,” said Jha.
A review article published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that less than 10 percent of transmission occurs outdoors and the chances of spreading the virus indoors were 19 times greater.
However, Northwestern University experts argue that keeping the masks on when you’re out – even after being vaccinated – is not only a “social courtesy”, but it also helps to “shape the behavior” of children, who still can’t get it. outlet.
According to the current CDC guidance, “masks may not be necessary when you are away from home, away from other people, or with people who live in your home.”
Health experts expect the CDC to more clearly describe high-risk situations when masks are really needed.
Kristin Nelson, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, said that while it was reasonable to include mandates for external masks so far, she would like to see them as one of the first restrictions lifted as more of the population is vaccinated and the case count starts to drop.
“I think these mass orders in outdoor spaces should probably be the first to be eliminated,” she said. “We really need to focus on places that we know are at high risk of transmission, such as large meetings and closed spaces with little ventilation.”
Reflecting on the importance of internal masking and helping people understand when it is safe to remove the mask can actually increase adherence, said Jha.
“So you can really emphasize where it is not safe and get people [to wear their masks],” he said.
The transmission rate of the community is an important factor in loosening the rules. In places where it is lower, it may be an appropriate time to start lifting requirements.
Anne Rimoin, professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, cautioned that it is not advisable to set a strict limit on suspending mandates and that masking mandate metrics are subject to new and emerging science.
“If you are vaccinated and there are low rates of transmission in the community, it is definitely reasonable not to worry about wearing masks [outdoors],” she said.
But when in a crowded situation, even outdoors, it is safer to keep the mask on, said Rimoin.