Press Club

Morning Poll: Are you still wearing masks during ‘low’ Covid levels?

A discarded face mask in Crystal City (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) Two years ago, stores in Arlington were being picked clean of face masks, as COVID-19 started to spread in the United States. Today, for the first time in a long time, masks are becoming optional in county facilities.

It’s been an unusual round trip from those early days of the pandemic, when healthy people were being actively discouraged from wearing masks.

From a March 4, 2020 Time article:

“It seems kind of intuitively obvious that if you put something–whether it’s a scarf or a mask–in front of your nose and mouth, that will filter out some of these viruses that are floating around out there,” says Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University. The only problem: that’s not effective against respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19. If it were, “the CDC would have recommended it years ago,” he says. “It doesn’t, because it makes science-based recommendations.”

The science, according to the CDC, says that surgical masks won’t stop the wearer from inhaling small airborne particles, which can cause infection.

Soon enough, mainstream opinion among health professionals shifted decidedly to the pro-mask camp, to the extent that mask mandates became the norm in Arlington and elsewhere.

But with most of the population vaccinated, and with new antiviral treatments available, the CDC last week again adjusted its mask guidance, saying that masks should be optional in places where the levels of Covid and Covid-related hospitalizations are relatively low.

That includes Arlington.

Only about 90 cases and two daily hospitalizations were being reported per 100,000 Arlington residents, per week, as of Tuesday, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. That is well below the 200 cases or 10 hospitalizations per 100,000 people per week that would push the county above the CDC-defined “low” levels.

So with county facilities, Arlington schools, the Pentagon and Congress now mask-optional, we’re wondering how our readers are handling the shifting guidance. Are you still wearing masks in some mask-optional situations, or are you going full maskless unless otherwise required, like on airplanes or in medical settings?

Let’s find out.

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