Why Mask Mandates and Social Distancing are Coming Back, Again.

by Allecia Harley, MPH on July 31, 2021

As the toddling virus that causes COVID-19 approaches the terrible twos in November, he is no longer crawling or merely walking. The leaked document out of the CDC suggests he is approaching a full sprint, and we are flat-footed trying to catch up to him.

What's changed?

  • Before the vaccine roll-out, we commonly saw transmission rates of 1.2 – 2 for every 1 person infected in locations where mask-wearing and social distancing were not widely implemented.
  • The Delta variant has a transmission rate between 5 – 9 for every 1 person infected when mask-wearing and social distancing were not widely implemented. I can’t imagine the Faberge' Organics commercial for that ratio (and so on, and so on, and so on)!

To put this in context, do you remember the days before the chickenpox vaccine? Families would have all the kids who’d never had chickenpox sleep in the same bed with the one child that did.  The intention was for a week or two of illness within the family instead of allowing it to drag out more slowly over six weeks to three months.

We consider that to be an abusive practice today. Still, before a vaccine, this was a preferred method of getting everyone exposed at one time and moving quickly into recovery mode, and it wasn't uncommon for doctors to suggest the method.

Suppose you are unvaccinated for COVID-19 and are indoors and unmasked with a person infected with the Delta variant. Similar to one of the vulnerable children sleeping with the kid with chickenpox, you are almost guaranteed to be infected. The difference being COVID-19 is significantly more debilitating, may have long-term effects, and is potentially deadly.  For more information on addressing fear of Covid-19 vaccines, read our post here.

Who's vulnerable?

As the daughter of a kidney transplant patient, my heart goes out to immunosuppressed patients or those that cannot get vaccinated. They are at particular risk due to the Delta variant and the leaked document mentioned above.

Last year, we got into the habit of getting tested before visiting grandma and grandpa. This year, we should revisit that practice and get tested and use precautions when visiting children under 12, transplant patients, people in chemotherapy, and other persons with weak immune systems, even if we are vaccinated. Remember, the vaccine protects us from hospitalization and death, not them.

In addition, if ever there was a case to return to masking indoors and social distancing, the time is now.

What's in the near future?

Once we know more about booster shots and how significant a positive impact they can make on the Delta and Gamma variants, we should be cautious. Why get a booster shot if the increased effectiveness against infection might change from, say, 87% to 89%? In that scenario, I’m not sure the juice is worth the squeeze. We can wear our masks and social distance until the numbers come out.

Let's Talk

If you lead a team that has returned to the office or is planning to return to the office and want to consider your options for vaccine mandates, testing, contact tracing, masking, and social distancing, please schedule a free no-obligation consultation.

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Topics: #Covid-19, Reopening, covid-19 pandemic, Social Distancing, Healthcare, CDC