Despite the ongoing efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, the virus is on the rise once again and health authorities in several Australian states have recommended the reintroduction of masks. While hospitals and aged care facilities have already reinstated mask mandates, there is currently a difference in recommendations for the wider community. So, the question remains: should you be wearing a mask amid rising COVID cases?
The answer lies in the fact that COVID is still a significant threat. The virus, known as SARS-CoV-2, has not mutated into a trivial cold. It can cause severe symptoms, especially in vulnerable individuals, and has the potential to lead to chronic illness in people of all ages and health statuses. Furthermore, COVID and its ongoing effects are causing substantial disability and impacting workforce productivity and economies.
It’s important to understand that COVID is not endemic, like influenza or measles, but rather an epidemic virus. This means that waves of the virus can be expected to keep coming. With this in mind, it is crucial to take steps to protect yourself, especially when cases are rising.
So, what can we do to protect ourselves? We know that SARS-CoV-2 primarily spreads through the air, and a significant transmission risk comes from asymptomatic individuals. This highlights the importance of universal masking during periods of high transmission. Masks are effective in preventing both inward and outward emissions, thereby protecting both the wearer and those around them.
While respirators and N95 masks offer the highest level of protection, any mask is better than no mask. Wearing a mask when visiting health-care or aged-care facilities is particularly important, but it is also advisable to wear one in crowded indoor settings such as shops and public transport.
It’s worth noting that vaccines remain crucial in the fight against COVID, despite the virus’s evolving nature. Booster shots are important to improve immunity, especially as vaccine effectiveness decreases over time and new mutations emerge. The development of monovalent boosters has shown promise in providing better protection against current circulating strains.
In conclusion, as COVID cases rise, it is recommended to wear a mask to protect yourself and others. Combined with vaccines, testing, and proper treatment, mask-wearing is a valuable tool in reducing the spread of the virus and ensuring a healthier future for all.