Los Angeles brought back masks. Do experts believe PA should too?


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Los Angeles, CA brought back a mandatory indoor mask policy on Saturday, July 17 for all individuals, even those who are vaccinated. With the rise in COVID-19 cases that can be attributed to the new Delta variant, is it possible for Pennsylvania to reinstate a similar policy?

The short answer is yes, there is always the possibility, but it doesn’t seem imminent. With COVID-19 cases growing around the country, medical professionals and the PA Department of Health are always watching the data to make decisions like this.

As of Friday, July 16, Pennsylvania ranked 9th in the country based on the percentage of the population who received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at 63.9%, slightly higher than California’s 62.8%. California has a much higher population, so the daily number of positive cases is much higher than Pennsylvania’s.

Pennsylvania has seen one of the slowest rises in new cases, and it ranks top five in the country in the lowest number of new cases in recent weeks.

“All of these variants that we’re seeing pose a threat and dampen the progress that we’ve seen with the coronavirus,” Eugene Curley, Infectious Disease Specialist at WellSpan Hospital, said. “Less than half of the United States is fully unvaccinated still, meaning that there’s plenty of hosts for the virus to continue spreading a mutating.”

“Overall, Pennsylvania is not seeing the same level of COVID cases that are being reported in other areas of the country,” Deputy Press Secretary Rachel Kostelac said. “This could be linked to Pennsylvania having higher vaccination numbers than those states, as we have seen a correlation between individuals getting vaccinated and declining case counts.”

Los Angeles’ mask policy is being reinstated one month after California’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts were lifted. Pennsylvania’s one-month anniversary is about two weeks away, which means that the next few weeks of data will be especially important for officials to make a decision about the mask policy.

Medical professionals are urging individuals to consider wearing a mask indoors again, citing the imminent threat that is caused by the Delta variant. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the variant is now responsible for over half of all new cases in the country.

“The delta variant is ripping around the world at a scorching pace, driving a new spike in cases and death,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus said during a COVID-19 press briefing June 12.

Data shows that fully vaccinated individuals greatly reduce the chance of encountering a lethal case of the variant, so medical professionals around the world are pushing to get more people vaccinated.

“We have overwhelming data, upwards of hundreds of millions of people that have been vaccinated, and we know that the vaccines are safe and effective,” Curley said.

“Getting vaccinated is our greatest protection for Pennsylvanians from the virus. We encourage anyone who is able to get vaccinated to do so to help protect Pennsylvanians who are unable,” Kostelac said.

Only time will tell if Pennsylvania will need to bring back the mask mandate. One thing is for certain, leaders around the state will be watching the next few weeks of data very closely.

“I think we’ve learned from the past 17 months that anything is possible, however, nothing is being discussed at this time,” Kostelac said.

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