As some states are already seeing a decent decrease in the number of new Covid-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant, health officials are pushing for vaccination and boosters in an effort to further improve the vaccination rates nationwide. While vaccines are proven to offer significant protection against severe Covid condition, hospitalization and death, all the other pandemic measures including wearing face masks are strongly encouraged and, in some states, even enforced.
Mask mandate is one of the first pandemic measures implemented since the start of the pandemic two years ago. Once schools reopened, the face mask mandate was also implemented in schools where all the students, teachers and administrative school staff were mandated to wear face masks to hopefully reduce the spread of the virus in schools and prevent school closures and switching to virtual learning.
Once the vaccines were rolled out, Americans were literally waiting in long lines to get vaccinated and the country now has one of the highest vaccination rates globally. That resulted many people to already have vaccine or natural immunity which further prevent severe Covid-19 condition. Taking into consideration this fact, some health experts believe it’s finally time to dump mask mandates in schools ‘letting students to get infected with Covid-19’ and develop natural immunity.
One of them is the former Food and Drug Administration chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb who thinks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should adjust its Covid masking guidance to account for high immunity protection in America, specifically when it comes to schools.
“We have a much more contagious variant that is probably going to continue to circulate and you have a population that has much more immunity,” the former Food and Drug Administration chief said in a “Squawk Box” interview, referring to the proliferation of the omicron variant in the U.S., on top of most school-age kids being eligible for vaccination.
“We’re going to probably have to tolerate, and probably should, a higher level of baseline spread at the point at which we consider withdrawing some of this mitigation,” said Gottlieb, a current board member at Covid vaccine maker Pfizer, which has recently requested that the FDA clear two-dose vaccinations for children 6 months to 5 years old.
According to the current CDC guidelines for mask mandates in schools, low prevalence in a community is considered when there are less than 10 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Once the cases reach a number greater than 10, CDC advises school districts to implement mask mandates for students, teachers, staff and school visitors. Gottlieb believes 20 cases per 100,000 people per day would be much more appropriate threshold with the Omicron in place.
“If we hold out, again, if we wait for 10 cases per 100,000 per day in most communities, we’re probably going to be waiting until the summer; we’re going to lose the opportunity this spring to try to return some sense of normalcy in the schools,” he added, arguing a more appropriate threshold could be 20 cases per 100,000 people per day.
Gottlieb added that CDC’s mask mandates guidelines should be changed especially taking into consideration the latest CDC testing conducted right before the Omicron wave showing that 9 out of 10 of the tested Americans already had Covid-19 antibodies as a result of previous infection, vaccination or both.
On Monday, California state officials announced they are considering to lift the indoor mask mandate for fully vaccinated folks next week, while the mandate will remain enforced for the unvaccinated. In select settings, such as nursing homes or while aboard public transit, everyone will be mandated to wear face mask or face covering regardless of their vaccination status.