Yeah, I think we might be done with mask “mandates” for the rest of the summer at least. People would resent them at this point and they don’t seem to do much to increase compliance, so why bother?
Mask recommendations, on the other hand, are another story.
Gottlieb makes a smart point in arguing to go easy with mandates for the time being. If we tell people to mask up now in hopes of preventing the spread of the B.1.617 Delta variant, at a moment when cases are rock bottom in most places in the U.S., no one will heed a similar warning this fall if and when we see another true wave of COVID. Gotta pick your spots. For now, in states and cities where transmission is low, hold off on masking until there’s clear evidence of a surge. Save the prophylactic masking for when the virus is prevalent again.
Which I guess is his way of warning people to expect another round of mandates later this year.
"Our mitigation should be reactive not proactive. We shouldn't be shutting things down, putting in mask mandates in anticipation of spread. We should do it when we see signs of spread … I don't think we should be implementing mask mandates," @ScottGottliebMD on #deltavariant. pic.twitter.com/0PdYrrNthX
— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) June 30, 2021
Why is Gottlieb so chill about the threat from Delta? It’s probably because he’s watching the numbers in the UK and recognizing that the vaccines have succeeded at protecting the people who were most likely to end up in the hospital if infected:
Here is a good example of what we mean by severe disease "uncoupling" from cases in the setting of vaccination. UK data below. Cases rose, but severe disease did not. Not completely delinked, but almost. pic.twitter.com/cxkNt0UMCf
— Monica Gandhi MD, MPH (@MonicaGandhi9) June 30, 2021
It’s a “casedemic” of Delta over there so far, as I explained last night. Whereas one in six hospital beds were occupied by COVID patients during England’s winter wave, now just one in 100 are. In fact, the scare from Delta may counterintuitively end up leaving more Americans safe from COVID than otherwise would have been the case. That’s because fear of the variant seems to have inspired a surge in vaccinations:
A nice boost in US reported vaccinations today, 1.4 million, which are critical to helping block the effects of Delta. pic.twitter.com/rHuWjG0JYg
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) June 30, 2021
Mask mandates won’t do much to contain the most transmissible known strain of the virus. Vaccinations will. Looks like the heavy media coverage of B.1.617 over the past month is bringing holdouts down off the fence.
Of course, there’s always a chance that Delta itself will mutate into something more fearsome and vaccine-resistant…
"There is one version of this #deltavariant, some people are referring to it as Delta Plus, that based on the experimental evidence there's a suggestion the vaccines don't work as well against that variant. That's what people are concerned about," says @ScottGottliebMD. pic.twitter.com/cONm2SdtDJ
— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) June 30, 2021
Whether the emergence of an even more dangerous variant would be met with new lockdowns and social-distancing restrictions is anyone’s guess. In blue states, probably. In red states, no — although even red states could bring back mask mandates, if only as a way of signaling to the public that we’ve entered another dangerous phase of the pandemic and it’s time to be careful again.
For now, though, public health experts are trying to play it cool, not wanting to undersell the vaccines by suggesting they’re not enough to hold off Delta on their own when the data shows that they are. Anthony Fauci told MSNBC this morning that no, there’s no need for vaccinated people to wear masks while attending a baseball game — although there’s certainly nothing wrong with doing so to provide yourself a tiny bit of extra protection:
.@JoeNBC to Fauci: If I'm vaccinated is it safe to go outside to a baseball game?
Fauci: Yes but "there's nothing wrong" with wearing a mask anyway pic.twitter.com/6gJozihtco
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) June 30, 2021
I think that’ll be the message from him, Rochelle Walensky, and other experts after July 4, when everyone’s had the big party they’ve been anticipating for so long. No mask mandates (unless the Delta surge gets bad), no change to the official CDC guidance encouraging vaccinated people to unmask, just a soft “y’know, it wouldn’t be the worst thing if even the vaccinated wore masks and avoided crowds” nudge. That’ll be their way of urging precautions without urging them so forcefully that they risk convincing vaccine holdouts that getting vaxxed won’t do much to protect them from Delta.
Of course, there are other major players in the pandemic for whom no amount of vaccinations and precautions will be enough to sufficiently limit the risk. This is ominous:
We as a nation and as workers need to be prepared to adapt as the delta variant develops. https://t.co/UeMnbSpRnh
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) June 29, 2021
I sense that “adapting” will mean many more months of remote learning for America’s public-school students this fall.
I’ll leave you with this new Budweiser ad, which captures the spirit of the moment. Americans are going to enjoy their Fourth after 16 months of misery, with the virus having been contained for now. And I think the experts know it, which is why they’re holding off on the usual abundance-of-caution messaging. It won’t work. Save it for after the party. By the way, when you’re celebrating this weekend, spare a thought for the fact that you’re fortunate enough to live in a country where protection from a deadly disease is readily available. Not everyone is so lucky.
For the first time in 25 years, Bill Pullman is back with a new speech to celebrate Independence Day. Watch now and #GoFourthAmerica.
— Budweiser (@budweiserusa) June 30, 2021