After a federal judge struck down the federal mask mandate on planes and public transportation on Monday, many Americans applauded the decision, while others questioned whether it’s safe to travel without face coverings while traveling at a time when COVID cases -19 are back. rise to the national level.
The Transportation Security Administration said Monday that it would not enforce the mask requirement while the White House reviewed whether to appeal the ruling, according to a Biden administration official.
Meanwhile, the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommend that people wear masks on public transport or on planes. Adding to the confusion, some local transit authorities (such as Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) have changed their mask mandates after the ruling, while others (such as New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority) They have kept them intact.
To help offer some guidance on wearing masks, Yahoo News spoke with medical contributor Dr. Lucy McBride, a physician in Washington, DC, who specializes in internal medicine. (Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.)
Yahoo News: What are some factors to consider when deciding to wear a mask?
dr Lucy McBride: Vaccination, ventilation, and surveillance — those are the three Vs to mitigate risk for people who are most at risk from this virus.
Whether or not you decide to wear a mask in public, in a crowded space, in a not-so-crowded space, at a concert, at a bar, at a restaurant with your friends, it all comes down to your medical vulnerabilities, your immunity status: you have had Omicron or COVID in the past; Have you been vaccinated? what vaccine has he had and how far has it been; and your risk tolerance.
There really isn’t a right answer to whether you should. [wear a] mask or not There is no one-size-fits-all behavioral recommendation, because in the age of Omicron, this is a wildly contagious variant. We can only delay, we cannot prevent exposure to coronavirus. Unless, of course, we decide to isolate ourselves from the world, which is not compatible for most people. My job is really to help poor people with the tools they need to delay exposure to the coronavirus and then protect themselves from the serious consequences with mitigation measures that have been shown to be effective and weigh the harms of ongoing restrictions.
What are the highest and lowest risk situations when deciding to wear a mask?
The highest risk situation in which a patient might want to consider a one-way mask is a crowded, poorly ventilated indoor public space when you do not know the immune status of those around you, if you yourself are at high risk for serious consequences of the COVID and in places where hospitalization rates are high.
Outdoors, we don’t have to worry [about wearing a mask].
What is the level of risk with public transport?
Public transportation, it depends. Airplanes actually have very sophisticated ventilation systems and are probably the least risky. There are so many other variables besides the plane itself. If you had a plane full of people who are swarming with coronavirus, there’s not enough ventilation to make a difference. I’d be less worried about an airplane than a stuffy subway car where people were coughing and sneezing on each other. But I would have worried about that in 2019, too, before the pandemic.
If you are not going to travel by public transport for a [lifted] mask mandate now, you may not travel again, because this virus is here in perpetuity. I would really encourage people to think about how to protect themselves with the proven mitigation measures that we have. [COVID-19 vaccines] and wear the mask for extra protection if you want or need to.
Is a person wearing a mask still protected if everyone else in public is not wearing one?
One-way masking, that is, an N95 mask that you have on tight and doesn’t come off, doesn’t depend on the people around you. That does not depend on the behavior of the people around you. That is the mental leap that we have to overcome, is to think that when other people are not masked, we cannot protect ourselves. Can.
What should people know in the future?
Given how contagious and transmissible Omicron is, and since this virus is here in perpetuity, we cannot prevent exposure to this virus. We can delay it and we can minimize the risk of serious results. Which is not to say that we shouldn’t be careful, it is to say that we should accept the unpleasant reality that COVID is here to stay. We have to entrench our own policies and behaviors in fact, and not this notion that we can avoid this virus forever, because it is not realistic.