As states across the country begin to loosen their restrictions on local businesses, Atrium Health experts urge the public to continue maintaining recommended safety precautions, such as wearing a face mask, to help keep you, your loved ones and the rest of the community safe – even when it doesn’t feel necessary.

Coronavirus Updates, Your Health

The Importance of Wearing a Face Mask, Even When it Doesn’t Feel Necessary

As states across the country have varying health and safety guidelines regarding COVID-19, Atrium Health experts urge the public to continue maintaining the recommended safety precautions, such as wearing a face mask, to help keep you, your loved ones, and the rest of the community safe – even when it doesn’t feel necessary.

As people head off to enjoy restaurants, breweries, churches, and other public places, many are easing back into the “old normal”. But as we see cases of COVID-19 continuing to spike, including variants, precautionary measures against the virus are critical to maintain to keep the community health and not overwhelm our health systems. 

Atrium Health experts warn that despite eased restrictions, it is still necessary to be vigilant about wearing a mask to protect yourself from the virus and prevent further spread in our community. But what does this mean exactly and how are we able to safely visit local businesses and attend social gatherings? 

Err on The Side of Caution — Especially if You’re Unvaccinated

By now, most American adults have had the opportunity to become fully vaccinated. It’s never too late to get the shot either. With vaccine appointments available at Atrium Health, it’s easy to get the protection you need. However, vaccinated or not, it’s still important to adhere to your states’ and the CDC’s guidelines for masking and social distancing. Here are some main pointers to follow:

  • Masks aren’t needed outdoors unless in large gatherings, where close contact is unavoidable
  • Even if fully vaccinated, wear a mask inside to help stop the spread of COVID-19, especially now that we have variants in the community.
  • Wear a mask in crowded public settings, like public transportation, regardless of vaccination status.
  • High-risk and immunocompromised people who are vaccinated should still wear masks in public spaces.
  • Everyone must wear masks in healthcare settings, regardless of vaccination status.

There are still many “unlikely” scenarios in which people are still at risk of being exposed to COVID-19, although it may feel safe. Some examples include eating at a restaurant or brewery, going to a religious gathering, or even visiting close family members.  

Stephanie Strollo, MD, infectious disease physician at Atrium Health Cabarrus, says “When COVID-19 is prevalent in the community, it is important that individuals mask when in public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status. As case counts decrease and those vaccinated increase, fully vaccinated individuals may choose to continue to mask indoors in public if there are household members who are unvaccinated or vaccinated but remain at higher risk for serious illness.”  

While it may feel safe to have small gatherings or even go out to eat, these situations still carry some risk. With more infections and variants in circulation and a fair percentage of Americans who remain unvaccinated, the virus still has plenty of opportunity to spread. “COVID-19 spreads mainly by close contact because of droplets from things such as talking and coughing, and masking provides ‘source control’ so those droplets are prevented from spreading to other people” says Dr. Strollo. People who are sick should stay home from work and/or school.

Staying Vigilant

For many families, the loosening of restrictions means reunions, celebrations and family vacations. When proceeding with regularly scheduled gatherings, it is important to take the necessary precautions to protect the ones you love. The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your community is to get vaccinated. Next, you should wear a mask when the situation requires one.

“Although most individuals who contract COVID-19 have mild symptoms, other folks are at higher risk for severe complications,” says Carmen Teague, MD, specialty medical director of internal medicine for Atrium Health’s Mecklenburg Medical Group Division. “These individuals include older folks, like grandparents, and people with underlying medical and lung conditions. Even with family gatherings, we encourage unvaccinated individuals to wear masks and practice social distancing.” 

Regardless of how safe some activities may feel, going in public does carry some risk for exposure to COVID-19 and its variants. But by simply wearing a face mask and getting vaccinated, you can help minimize that risk and help protect both yourself and the larger community.

For more information on COVID-19 and to schedule your vaccine appointment or get tested, visit our resource hub online.