CDC, local doctors advise whether or not to wear a mask

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says many of us may lose masks as transmission levels improve in our community. Local doctors have different opinions on whether to mask or not, and say that if we lose the mask now, we should be prepared to get it back if transmission levels increase in the future.

While the CDC has stated that approximately 70% of the population no longer needs to wear masks, whether outdoors or indoors, it qualified that statement by saying that people in areas who still experience high transmission of COVID-19, those who may be immunocompromised or have other comorbidities or at-risk, or those in contact with at-risk individuals should still consider wearing a mask.

Continued:‘Near the finish line’: COVID cases drop in NH, Maine. When is it time to remove the masks?

In their statement on masking, the CDC said: “With the current high levels of vaccination and high levels of population immunity to vaccination and infections, the risk of medically significant illness, hospitalization and death by COVID-19 is significantly reduced for most people. At the same time, we know that some people and communities, such as our oldest citizens, immunocompromised people, and people with disabilities, are at higher risk of serious illness and need to make tough decisions to navigate a world with COVID-19.

Dr Artemio Mendoza

Some local doctors aren’t so sure.

“I’m on two sides, as a doctor and as an ordinary person,” said Dr Artemio Mendoza, an infectious disease physician at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital. “Like everyone else, I want this to end and get back to some semblance of normality. But the doctor in me is worried, here we go again. So, I’m going to continue wearing a mask for now. “

Mendoza said he based his decision on the numbers, the data.

Continued:Somersworth and Dover schools prepare to end mask mandates as COVID cases drop

“Across the country, the numbers are down,” he said. “People are relieved. But the CDC issued its statement with warnings that masks were optional indoors. On buses, on public transportation, masks are still required. In health care, we we still need it.”

Dr Michael Calderwood

“All metrics are improving, including daily case counts, test positivity and hospitalizations,” said Dr. Michael Calderwood, chief quality officer at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. “We should hopefully see all counties in northern New England move from high to medium transmission of COVID-19 soon. This is where public health guidelines start to move away from masking indoors, especially for those up to date on vaccinations and/or not at high risk of severe illness.”

Calderwood said many schools will start having similar conversations about masking based on these measures.

“It’s a very positive trajectory,” he said. “We will have to monitor the numbers closely, knowing that cases could potentially increase again; however, we have no indication of this at this time.”

School districts, some of which operated under mask mandates, are reconsidering. A letter sent to parents last week by the Rochester School District made masking optional.

“On Wednesday, February 23, the Governor, the NH Department of Health and Human Services, and the NH Department of Education released new guidelines for masking in schools (full technical advisory). Based on the advice provided, starting Monday, February 24. On the 28th, the wearing of masks by students and teachers will be optional but recommended.”

The district’s letter noted that there were exceptions, including a mask requirement on school buses. People quarantined for COVID-19 without symptoms who return to school must wear a mask for days 6-10. If you choose not to wear a mask, the person will be quarantined for the full 10 days.

Mendoza said Monday that Wentworth-Douglass only had five COVID patients. In January, the hospital had 49.

“When the Delta variant eased off, people gave up things like masks and other mitigations,” Mendoza said. “Then Omicron came along and things went wrong very quickly. Omicron has a new variant, BA2, which seems more contagious, but less severe. I don’t think it’s still around, but in the countries where it appeared , she’s not as If we’re dropping the masks for now, we need to be flexible enough to take them back on if needed, maybe there are more and more severe variations to come.

The CDC website offers state and county guidance to help people decide their level of COVID mitigation.

In Rockingham County, the level of community transmission is listed as medium and the CDC advises:

  • If you are at high risk for serious illness, ask your healthcare provider if you should wear a mask and take other precautions
  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines
  • Get tested if you have symptoms
  • People can choose to mask themselves at any time. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.

In Strafford County, the community level is high and the CDC advises:

  • Wear a mask indoors in public
  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines
  • Get tested if you have symptoms
  • Extra precautions may be needed for people at high risk of severe illness

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