Mask Mandates Are Ending—but Should You Still Wear One?
As Omicron cases continue to fall in most places, many states have rolled back some of their mask mandates for indoor locations like restaurants and schools. But with the CDC still recommending wearing masks when indoors, it's led to a lot of confusion about when and where (and even if) you need to wear a mask going forward.
"A lot of us are looking to the CDC to come up with guidance that is both practical and durable, meaning that it will not have to be quickly changed, but rather last at least several months ahead," says Vivek Cherian, MD, a Chicago-based internal medicine physician. "The challenge, ultimately, is there is not a single metric the CDC can follow to make the decision, because of the viral dynamics. Things are changing quickly and not uniformly across the country—cases are down significantly in many areas of the country, however, are still peaking in some areas."
Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection prevention and control for UCHealth, says that we're at the point in the COVID pandemic when you have to consider your own individual risk—and make your choices accordingly.
"The recommendations up until now have been so black and white, but now we can allow people to make a decision that makes sense for them," she says. "The most important thing at this point is what your individual inner circle's risks are—if you have people in your household who are not vaccinated, older, or have underlying medical conditions, make the decision based on that."
Because Dr. Barron works with people who are highly immunocompromised, she's planning to continue masking until the community transmission rate drops below 5 percent—but other people may make a different decision. "There are a lot of things in life where you may feel more comfortable than your neighbor," she says. "Some people will never get on a ladder, others will get on it, no big deal."
So what should you consider when you're making the call? Here are the variables that may lead you to decide to don a mask.