Mask warrants have returned in many places, including here at UB, where policy recently changed to require that all people, regardless of their immunization status, wear masks indoors and those who are not vaccinated. hide outside.
Many people, especially those who are fully immunized, wonder why. To help explain, UBNow turned to Thomas Russo, head of infectious diseases at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and a trusted expert who has been widely cited in media around the world since the start of the pandemic of COVID-19.
First: why did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all people, regardless of their immunization status, mask themselves indoors, and why UB and many other places have they followed suit?
The answer, Russo explains, is that COVID-19 cases are increasing in many places across the country due to the highly contagious and much more transmissible delta variant. And the outbreak is happening in large part because unvaccinated people are not wearing masks and are preventing the spread of the virus.
âIn my mind, the most important reason for using masks is to make sure that unvaccinated people use masks when they should be,â he says. The use of the honor system by the unvaccinated to use masks where appropriate has been flawed.
âUltimately,â Russo continues, âthis wave is mostly about the unvaccinated. And the greatest risk is that unvaccinated individuals will pass it on to other unvaccinated individuals, who account for the overwhelming majority of cases.â
But there are also risks for people who have been vaccinated. As good as our vaccines are, they’re not perfect, Russo notes. Groundbreaking cases can occur in people who are fully vaccinated, but luckily they are usually mild or asymptomatic and rarely result in hospitalization or death. However, recent data from the CDC supports that fully vaccinated individuals with symptomatic infection can transmit the delta variant, most likely to unvaccinated people, and perhaps fully vaccinated individuals can be infectious if they are infected but asymptomatic.
For these reasons, and given the current community burden of disease in our region, UB has decided to change its masking policy as per the recommendation of the CDC.
This pandemic will end when everyone is either vaccinated or, sadly, infected, says Russo, and that’s why he hopes mask warrants serve as a bridge to encourage people to get vaccinated. If someone is infected, all bets are off on the short and long term consequences.
“There will be no collective immunity where the virus magically disappears,” he adds. âThere are going to be two groups of people: people who have been vaccinated and who have not been infected, and people who have been infected. To avoid infection, your best strategy is to get vaccinated.
UB continues to urge students and staff to get vaccinated before the start of the fall semester. A large percentage of both have already done so, and the trends look good for getting the vast majority of people on campus vaccinated.