To Mask, or Not to Mask

As COVID guidelines continue to relax across the U.S., should you still wear a mask?

Although there is no longer a rule to wear masks, there are guidelines that some experts suggest you should follow.

First, new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that those who have been in contact with COVID-19 patients should wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and self-test after the fifth day.

Those who test positive but come out of quarantine after five days need to wear a mask on day 10 – but with caution.

The CDC also states that if antigen tests are available to you, “you should consider using them.”

“With two consecutive negative tests 48 hours apart, you may remove your mask by day 10,” the guidelines state, adding that if you test positive for the antigen, “you may still be infectious.”

Those who continue to test positive should continue to wear masks.

“You should continue wearing the mask and wait at least 48 hours before taking another test,” the CDC advises. “Antigen testing is continued at least 48 hours apart until two consecutive negative results occur. This may mean that you need to continue wearing the mask and be tested beyond day 10.”

But how often should people wear masks outside of isolation and exposure guidelines?

Masks continue to be recommended only in areas considered to have high rates of community transmission or for people considered to be at high risk of serious illness.

Several counties in the Chicago area ended up in the “high” category.

“COVID is not over yet,” said Dr. Sharon Welbel, director of hospital epidemiology and infection control for the Cook County Health Department. “I know, you know, out there… It feels like most people are done by now, but not done yet. And you know, I don’t think people should be ashamed if they don’t want to infect novel coronavirus and they feel they want to wear masks indoors.”

This is especially true for school-age children, Verbel said.

When classes resume this fall, masks will be an option in most districts, and some of the nation’s largest districts have rolled back or waived COVID-19 testing requirements.

In Chicago public schools, masks are not required in most cases, but are still “highly recommended.” Masks will be made available to those who request them, according to officials.

In some cases, however, K95 masks will be required.

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s largest school district will require universal covering of school property as Jefferson County enters its highest level of community transmission of COVID-19.

Dr. Alison Awadi, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said the city will not mandate masks and that hospital capacity remains sufficient to meet patients’ current needs.

“I don’t expect masks and indoor mask mandates anytime soon. If we see a threat to our health care system, we will re-enact indoor mask requirements, “she said last month.

Still, around the world, countries with increased cases are beginning to reinstate certain COVID requirements.

The German government said last week that basic coronavirus requirements would remain in place for the coming autumn and winter, when experts expect COVID-19 cases to rise again as people spend more time indoors.

Meanwhile, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country, the Indian capital has reintroduced rules for the public to wear face masks.

But when thinking about wearing masks in the coming months, people should think about more than just COVID.

With fall and winter approaching, as well as flu season, Welbel noted that other respiratory viruses could also be slowed down by this practice.

“Unless behavior changes and people go back to wearing masks, we’re going to see more of all these respiratory viruses,” Verbel said. “We’ve seen some flu.”

However, it remains to be seen whether other respiratory virus infections in the country will surpass pre-pandemic levels this fall and winter.

“During COVID, when people were wearing masks, we hardly saw any respiratory viruses circulating. We’ll have clusters like RSV, but – in the last flu season we did have a fair amount of flu in our area – but we’ll see more, “Verbel said. “I don’t know if it will…… Out of proportion to what we’ve seen historically. There’s no question that without masks, we would see more COVID, more influenza, more RSV, a lot — I can name a lot of other respiratory viruses — we would see all of them. Again, if people don’t want to get them, they can wear masks.”

Both Arwady and Welbel said they continue to wear masks in indoor Settings.

“I was very careful. I wear a mask indoors, I take a lot of tests, I follow my own advice, and, you know, I don’t actually have [COVID], “Arwady said last week. “I’m happy about that.”

“I always wear a mask indoors. I mean 100 percent of the time, “Verbel told NBC 5, although she stressed that” at this point, it’s up to the individual to decide.”


  1. Great article! It may be worth noting that all the qualities discussed in the video means that N95 “masks” are really respirators—subject to all the OSHA requirements for respirators when used in a workplace, including a fit test and a medical fitness test annually.

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