Positivity rates and vaccinations should guide mask mandates, WakeMed expert says

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RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) — Many have wondered what factors come into play in deciding whether or not to lift mask mandates. Some regions are abandoning them while others think it is still too early.

Jessica Dixon, infection prevention specialist at WakeMed, said it’s important to remember one thing: “Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.”

She said two of the biggest factors that are expected to influence mask mandates are test positivity rates and vaccination rates. These vary greatly from place to place.

“We are still within the test positivity rate of around 20%, which is extremely high,” she said. “If you
remember that when we first started looking to relax all things a year or more ago, we were looking at a test positivity rate of less than 5%.

Cases are happening statewide, but Dixon put the numbers into context.

“Where we are now is worse than where we are at any of the other peaks,” she explained. “We’re not in a place where we can say ‘Oh my God, this is great. We’ve passed it. Were not. It’s just that our peak was so much higher this time than where we were. are now, it’s still a bad place. It’s just not as bad as the one we were in a few weeks ago.

She said some places that are easing restrictions have much lower positivity rates and higher vaccination rates. New York has a positivity rate of less than 5%.

“Denmark has 85% – over 85% – vaccination coverage in its population, so even if there are breakthrough cases and people get sick, they don’t see the impact on their healthcare system” , Dixon said.

North Carolina is seeing the number of hospitalized patients begin to decline, but the state is still reporting nearly 4,000 COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

“We have very sick people. We have people dying every day from COVID in our hospitals,” Dixon said. “The grief and the emotion that comes with it hasn’t changed. It’s not easier now than it was two years ago.

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