Tampa Bay health experts explain importance of wearing masks still during pandemic

mask-face mask-masks-generic1.jpg
Posted at 6:14 PM, Apr 22, 2021

With more and more Floridians getting the COVID-19 vaccine, some people may wonder what you can and still can’t do during this pandemic. Local health experts and doctors in the Tampa Bay area explain why masks are still an important safety measure.

“The masks are the single most definitive way that we can make sure that we’re protecting ourselves and others,” said Dr. Laura Arline, Baycare Health System’s Chief Quality Officer.

The CDC reminds people when you wear a mask, you protect others as well as yourself, also explaining masks should be worn in addition to following social distancing.

Dr. Arline explained why people who are vaccinated will still want to keep masks handy.

“While we know that the vaccines decrease our likelihood of getting sick if we’re vaccinated, what we aren’t sure about is how well they protect us from transmitting COVID to those who are not vaccinated, so we want to protect our neighbors and friends,” said Arline.

The CDC says if you are fully vaccinated, you can have visits inside a home or private setting without a mask with other fully vaccinated people of any age. It also says fully vaccinated people can visit inside a home or private setting without a mask with one household of unvaccinated people who aren't at risk for severe illness. The CDC notes those who are fully vaccinated should keep taking precautions like wearing a mask in public places.

If you aren’t fully vaccinated, health experts say you’ll still want to keep your guard up, especially as variants circulate.

“If you sort of balance out the increased infectivity with the decrease in number of susceptible people who are out there due to vaccinations, it probably almost balances out, so you’re basically as likely to get infected now if you haven’t been vaccinated as you were back in like August or September or October,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, a Distinguished USF Health professor.

People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the last dose in their vaccine series. Health experts ask people to stay vigilant as the pandemic continues on.

“We’re getting so much closer to being maskless, but we’re not there yet, so continuing to take precaution is really important,” said Dr. Arline.