The CDC Director Warns It's "Too Early" to Start Doing This One Thing
COVID cases will have to come down a lot more before we can begin to say goodbye to this measure.
After reaching an all-time high in early January, the United States has witnessed a steady decline in COVID cases. But even with the numbers going down over the past month, top officials are arguing that the very precautions that were able to get the pandemic to change course still need to be kept in place for the time being. Recently, for example, Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warned that it's still "too early" to end mask mandates across the U.S. Read on to see why keeping your face covered in public is important, even if you've been vaccinated, and for more on what officials warn you shouldn't be using as PPE, check out The CDC Warns Against Using These 6 Face Masks.
Cases haven't dropped enough for officials to ditch mask mandates yet.
During an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press on Feb. 14, Walensky pointed out that the significant drop in cases represented major progress in the fight against COVID. But she argued that the war is still far from over. When asked whether or not it was "too early" for local officials to remove mask mandate—as governors in some states have done recently—she replied, "Absolutely."
"The cases are more than two-and-a-half-fold times what we saw over the summer," Walensky warned. "It's encouraging to see these trends coming down but they're coming down from an extraordinarily high place." And for more on how numbers look where you live, check out How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.
Mask mandates could help stop a variant-fueled surge.
Walensky also brought up her concerns over the highly contagious mutated strains of the virus that are currently spreading across the U.S. "We are nowhere out of the woods," Walensky said during an interview with CBS's Face the Nation on Feb. 14. "And as you know, if we relax these mitigation strategies with increasing transmissible variants out there, we could be in a much more difficult spot."
"So what I would say is now is the time to not let up our guard," she added. "Now is the time to double down." And for more on what's not safe to start back up, check out Dr. Fauci Says Doing This After Getting Vaccinated Is a Huge Mistake.
A handful of states have recently relaxed their mask mandates.
Walensky's warnings come as some governors have eased or entirely removed face mask mandates and other safety precautions that had been put in place during earlier surges, The New York Times reports. North Dakota, Iowa, and Montana recently removed their mask requirements, while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo allowed indoor dining to restart at 25 percent capacity.
But Walenksy is not the only health official who has advised against removing safety measures prematurely. According to the Des Moines Register, members of the Iowa Public Health Association wrote a public letter to Gov. Kim Reynolds last week, warning: "The mandate that was in place until last Sunday reinforced the correct message that masks and social distancing are critical to reducing the spread of COVID. The new message from you is that it is no longer necessary to be conscientious in protecting ourselves and our communities. This is wrong, and for many, will be dead wrong." And for more on what you can do now, check out Dr. Fauci Just Confirmed You Can Do This After Getting Vaccinated.
Better masks are needed now more than ever.
With the threat of highly contagious variants on the rise, experts have been reminding the public that it's now more important than ever to have an effective mask. On Feb. 10, the CDC released new guidelines on how to "improve the fit and filtration of your mask" to best block these emerging strains, particularly the U.K. variant known as B.1.1.7., which is now in 40 states with nearly 1,200 cases reported across the U.S.
"You don't want to get any variant, but you really don't want to get B.1.1.7.," Angela Rasmussen, MD, a virologist at Georgetown University, told The Times. It's recently been discovered that it's 70 percent deadlier than the current dominant strain in the States. And for more on what you should be doing with your PPE, check out The CDC Says You Should Be Doing These 3 Things With Your Mask Right Now.