Do you need to wear a mask again? Health officials weigh in

Do you need to wear a mask again? That is the question on everyone’s mind since the CDC released new recommendations for areas that have ‘substantial’ or ‘high’ community transmission of COVID-19.

The answer is that you should wear a mask if you are a student or teacher in a k-12 school or if you live in a high risk area, according to the CDC.

On Wednesday, the CDC recommended that everyone in K-12 schools wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. That is on top of recommending that people in high risk areas wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.

High risk areas can be found in a map of COVID-19 transmission rates by county for the entire country that the CDC released this week.

As of Wednesday morning, 14 Minnesota counties were in the danger zone, with Lake County in the red for ‘high community transmission.’

10 Wisconsin counties made the map, with Bayfield in the orange for ‘substantial community transmission’.

Both Douglas and St. Louis County were categorized as yellow for ‘moderate transmission.’

“We’re not there yet—luckily, but we don’t want to get there and so we want to make sure that we are doing all we can,” Amy Westbrook, Public Health Division Director for St. Louis County said.

According to Westbrook, part of this is getting people vaccinated.

“We know the variant is here in St. Louis County,” Westbrook said. “So if someone hasn’t been vaccinated, it is a good time to talk to their health provider and find information about the vaccine. It’s very accessible and available.”

If cases worsen, St. Luke’s infectious disease expert Dr. Andrew Thompson said masking may be necessary.

“If we get more disease activity in our community, we should wear masks. You know, if we pass that rate of moderate or increased activity, that’s the right thing to do for the short amount of time,” Thompson said.

While the vaccine is highly effective, Thompson said masking can also prevent breakthrough cases.

“Although we know the vaccine offers a huge amount of protection and it’s really effective against Delta, it’s possible that there could be some breakthrough case in especially those who may be immune compromised and so it makes sense to add another layer of protection and that’s what a mask is. It’s just another layer of protection,” Thompson said.

For the time being, the Minnesota Department of Health said it is up to local leaders to reinstate mask ordinances.