Does Masking Still Matter?

We may be tired of COVID-19, but the pandemic isn’t over. We still need to wear masks. Why?

The pandemic isn’t over

Arkansas is still high risk. Just over 60% of adults in our state are vaccinated, and that includes people who have had just one dose. In Benton County, it’s even lower — just 59% are vaccinated.

While 76% of cases and 86% of deaths are in unvaccinated people, Arkansas is seeing what news sources call a “constant increase” in cases. 8,840 Arkansans have died from COVID-19 so far, and we see new cases every day.

We may be ready for the pandemic to be over, but it isn’t over yet. 

I thought vaccinated people didn’t have to wear masks?

At one point, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks. They still say that small gatherings of fully-vaccinated people can do without masks.

This means that your family gatherings over the holidays could be unmasked, as long as all your family members are vaccinated. 

However, masks are still needed for public gatherings. Specifically, the CDC says, “To reduce the risk of being infected with the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.” This includes Washington County, Benton County, and Carroll County.

Do masks really help?

New research reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences prove that masks make a difference. 

“We find a very low risk of infection when everyone wears a face mask,” the researchers reported. “We conclude that wearing appropriate masks in the community provides excellent protection for others and oneself.”

This study found that an uninfected person speaking with an infected person without a mask had a 90% chance of infection in just a few minutes. If both were masked, the chance of infection fell to 30% at one hour. With well-fitting FFP2 masks, the risk of infection was just 0.4%. 

This confirms previous findings showing that wearing masks makes a measurable difference in the rates of infection with COVID-19.

What about vaccinations?

Vaccination is the best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you are not fully vaccinated, you should make an appointment to get your COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

People who have been vaccinated usually do not catch COVID-19; if they contract the disease, it is usually milder than the cases people get without being vaccinated.