As COVID-19 vaccinations continue in Monroe County, the county’s top health official is warning residents that masking and social distancing are still necessary until a substantial portion of the population has been vaccinated.
According to Indiana’s vaccine dashboard, 5,000 people have received both doses of their COVID-19 vaccine in Monroe County. More than 216,000 people have been fully vaccinated in Indiana as of Feb. 7. But even these people should still wear a mask, said Monroe County Health Department administrator Penny Caudill.
“Everybody needs to wear a mask, even if they’ve been vaccinated or recovered, until we really reach the point where we can say that a good number of people have been vaccinated and that we’re seeing low community spread,” Caudill said. “There’s still the potential you could become infected.”
Caudill emphasized that no vaccine is 100% effective. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have high efficacy rates, which is one metric to determine how effective a vaccine is. However, a vaccinated resident who comes into contact with the virus may still be able to spread it, Caudill said. The vaccine does not necessarily stop all spread immediately, but it makes the virus less lethal if one were to get it, Caudill said.
“You may not get very sick,” she said. “We see that with influenza. For example, you might get the flu. But the chances that you’ll be in the hospital or die from it are drastically reduced.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said last week that layering two masks on top of each other is a common sense practice. The CDC said Wednesday it is studying whether two masks can help prevent COVID-19 spread.
While double masking may have some benefit, Caudill said it is more important that people are wearing their masks correctly.
“Everybody needs to wear a mask, and they need to wear it correctly,” she said. “You could wear two or three masks. If they’re not on right, it doesn’t do you any good.”
Caudill said the public’s first priority should be wearing a mask that fits properly and assuring those masks are worn properly. The CDC recommends masks fit snugly around the sides of your face and cover your nose and mouth. From there, double masking may be smart for those who aren’t wearing masks that have filters or thick layers. If a mask allows for air to pass through, for example, double masking may be a practical step.
At the county’s vaccine sites, Caudill said the health department requires workers to wear a surgical mask, but workers can choose to wear another mask on top.