Health Experts Say Louisiana Should Stop Blanket Mask Mandates
The city of Shreveport put mask mandates back in place this week, after Mayor Adrian Perkins tested positive for COVID-19. While Perkins is asymptomatic, his diagnosis was disclosed by his office in a public release. Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reduced quarantine times for positive cases from 10 days to just 5 days, meaning Perkins could be out of quarantine already.
The change made by the CDC is one of many that are taking place around the globe with COVID-19. However, while medical experts are loosening their restrictions surrounding COVID, local governments seem to be ramping up restrictions. Which is what we've seen in Shreveport with their latest mask mandate.
Recently, two health experts have published a list of changes that local governments should be making when it comes to COVID. The piece published in Time magazine came from Dr. Monica Gandhi MD, Professor of Medicine; Associate Division Chief of the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine; Director of the Ward 86 HIV Clinic at San Francisco General Hospital; and Director of the Center for AIDS Research at UCSF and Dr. Jeanne Noble MD who is Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine; Director of COVID Response, UCSF Parnassus Emergency Department.
In their piece, the doctors say that governments should retire "old metrics". Similar to what the World Health Organization advised over the summer, their idea is that officials should stop paying attention to COVID case totals. The doctors argue that data shows COVID case totals have decoupled from hospitalizations and deaths, which no longer makes case counts a valuable metric.
The recommendations from the experts also says that natural immunity should be highly important to vaccination status. The doctors say that "fully vaccinated" status should be considered as 1 dose of a vaccine after infection...among other nuanced considerations.
Testing is another part of COVID protocol that comes into focus in their piece, but not specifically the testing. Their concern is more about the idea that schools, sports teams, and businesses should no longer shut down or cancel events because of positive tests.
Perhaps the biggest part of their breakdown comes in relation to mask mandates. The doctors say that only high risk individuals should be using masks, and only high quality masks. Here is exactly what the doctors say:
"Protecting those at risk of severe breakthroughs also means the end of blanket mask mandates. Our adult population has had access to highly effective vaccines for almost a year, and more recently, all children ages 5 and older became eligible for vaccination. Use of N95, KN95, KF94, FFP2, or even double masking, should be encouraged among select high-risk populations, but perpetual masking of entire populations is not sustainable or necessary. Our children, the demographic group at lowest risk of serious COVID-19 illness, continue to endure more hours of uninterrupted masking than higher risk adults. This strategy would mean making child masking optional at 12 weeks after the last school-age child became eligible for vaccination."
So with all of these recommended, rational, science-based changes being offered by highly decorated experts, will local governments actually change what they're doing? The City of Shreveport just put in a new mask mandate, and is reissuing social distancing at their City Council meetings, which isn't what these experts are suggesting.
This is a continuation of a common theme during the pandemic; decision makers are quick to make restrictions with little information, but drag their feet to lift restrictions when mountains of data is provided. We've seen this over and over with capacity restrictions, mask mandates, and school closures. With all of this data telling leaders in cities like Shreveport to drop mask mandates, and loosen other restrictions, how long until it actually happens?