While state officials have not implemented any new mask regulations in response to the CDC’s guidance change, local health experts say Marylanders should exercise caution.

The CDC is recommending that people vaccinated with COVID-19 continue to wear masks in areas of high transmission, amending guidance issued in May that says fully vaccinated people can wear them. masks in indoor and outdoor environments.

Mona Gahunia, an infectious disease physician at Kaiser Permanente, said when the CDC issued that guidance, there was a lot to be optimistic about. More people have been vaccinated, positive rates are down, and the Delta variant doesn’t seem to pose a big threat.

Gahunia said the CDC is on the right track. She understands why some people might think it’s overturning, but in the end they’re still trying their best.

“Public health professionals in the field, we have all been learning on the go,” she said. “And because new information and data is released every day, we’re doing our best to keep up.”

However, she added that the CDC could do with clearer and simpler guidance. The new recommendations specify concealment in areas of high transmission. Gahunia said whether an area is highly transmissible can change very quickly.

“It’s not easy for people to keep track of all of that,” she said. “Especially if you’re moving around, you’re traveling in the summer.”

Ultimately, Gahunia said, people may just want to stick with wearing masks indoors.

“The safest strategy for most people, and especially anyone over 65, immunocompromised, or an unvaccinated family member is to wear a mask in public places,” she said. in the home.

She said she wouldn’t be surprised if Maryland re-enacted the mask-wearing mandate.

But at today’s Public Governance Council meeting, Governor Larry Hogan made no mention of the mandate to wear masks. His spokesperson also confirmed to WYPR that Hogan is not reviewing one.

Gahunia said the deciding factor for public health officials is not necessarily the rate of specific COVID positives, but the rate of growth.

“If we continue to see rates of increase like we’re seeing, and if it continues to grow exponentially, then we should really reconsider whether we’re wearing masks,” she said.

After weeks of declining COVID positivity rates, Maryland’s crossed 2% for the first time since May last weekend. As of Wednesday, the positivity rate is 2.45%.

Neysa Ernst, chief nursing officer of the Johns Hopkins Biological Control Unit, said Maryland may be doing relatively better than other states, as it is currently an area of ​​moderate transmission. CDC.

But she said Marylanders should still be “very wary” of the Delta variant.

“We knew we couldn’t live through 2020 again,” Ernst said. “And if it were as simple as saying, you know, I would wear a mask to the grocery store, wouldn’t I? The governor may not be required, but [say] I have a family member who is sick and I want to protect them… out of respect for them, I will put on a mask. “

Ernst said she practices that kind of caution outside of work. She wears a mask at the grocery store and at church, where she tries to stay about 6 feet away from others.

“It makes a lot of sense to wear a mask on a plane, in a crowded bus stop, in a crowded train station or in places where you can’t keep social distance,” she said.

As a doctor, Gahunia is also very cautious. She has children under 12 who have not been vaccinated. She wears a mask in public places in the house. When she goes to a restaurant, she just sits outside.

“I have become more comfortable with my family, who are fully vaccinated, my parents and my wife,” says Gahunia.

Gahunia is also calling attention to another little-known part of the new CDC guidance: testing.

The CDC now says that if you’re fully vaccinated and have been exposed to someone with COVID, you should get tested three to five days after exposure, regardless of whether you have symptoms or not.

Previously, testing was not necessarily recommended for vaccinated people who did not have symptoms.


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