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Health Officials Raise Concerns About Potential Return of Mask Mandates in Fall

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Even though I have been fully vaccinated for a few months, I continue to wear my mask when I go out to prioritize community safety. Personally, I don’t mind wearing it much as I tend to stay at home, but I know many friends and family members who are relieved to no longer have to wear them. However, due to worsening circumstances, it is possible that this period of being mask-free, even for vaccinated individuals, may be short-lived.

With the Delta variant of COVID-19 becoming the predominant strain in the US, states with lower vaccination rates are experiencing new outbreaks and hospitals reaching full capacity. Countries with limited vaccination infrastructure have already had to reintroduce curfews and mandates due to the spread of the Delta variant. Health officials from the WHO and the US government are warning that similar measures may be necessary once fall arrives.

Lawrence Gostin, director of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, stated, “I could foresee that in certain parts of the country, there could be a reintroduction of indoor mask mandates, distancing, and occupancy limits in the coming months.”

He further added, “We are heading for a very dangerous fall, with large portions of the country still unvaccinated, a surging delta variant, and people discarding their masks.”

While vaccination rates are high in major cities on the west coast and northeast, several states in the south and midwest have vaccination rates below 30%. These states are identified by health advisors as being at the highest risk for new COVID outbreaks and the potential reinstatement of mask mandates.

Dr. Christopher J.L. Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, mentioned, “Given pandemic fatigue, it will be challenging to get most Americans to adhere to guidelines on mask-wearing and social distancing. When cases and hospitalizations start to rise again, possibly in the fall or winter, it may be easier to convince some individuals to take precautionary measures.”

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