Does the Delta variant mean you should mask up again? We ask a local expert

Coronavirus

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Just as many people are shedding their masks, ready to get back to a normal summer, there is confusion over mask guidelines.

With the Delta variant spreading, the World Health Organization now says everyone even those who have been vaccinated should wear masks. Some cities are now mandating it too, even indoors in public areas.    

Dr. Stephen Threlkeld with Baptist Hospital says different agencies have different perspectives, depending on who they have to take care of, the amount of community transmission and the amount of susceptibility to the virus.

“It is not necessarily a totally different thought for the WHO to suggest that worldwide and on average people should be taking more precautions because they aren’t vaccinated” said Threlkeld.

But it was just last month that federal officials eased the mask restrictions, saying people no longer needed to mask up indoors. People weary of the mandates gladly started tossing the masks.

But was it too much too soon?

“As to whether we have pulled back too soon, I think probably not. Things were better and things continue to be better for now, although there is an uptick as we mentioned and we see it in surrounding states. All of those recommendations have been based on what the community transmission rate is and what the real risk is to citizens in this community,” said Threlkeld.

→ Continuing Coverage: COVID-19 in the Memphis area

The mask debate comes as restrictions on where to mask up continue to change.

U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee is behind a new push to take unmasking even further, with a call to end the requirement for masks on airplanes and public transportation.

“If you are tired of having to put on a mask to walk through the door of the airport, to get on a plane and you want this to come to an end, I agree with you,” Blackburn said. “And people that are fully vaccinated  ought not to have to wear the mask. CDC get your act together. Review these standards. End the mask mandate.”

Threlkeld also spoke on the fact we have had no deaths in Shelby County in over a week, saying things are getting better.

But he says low vaccination rates in nearby Mississippi and Arkansas pose a risk and patients from those areas will likely funnel to our health care system.

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