Do vaccinated people need to mask up? Houston health experts weigh in amid COVID surge

Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Masking again? Expert weighs in amid COVID surge
Dr. Peter Hotez, a familiar face in Houston when it comes to the COVID pandemic, weighed in on the contagious spread of the virus through the Delta variant.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Texas Medical Center healthcare leaders are now calling the increase in COVID-19 cases a fourth wave. On Tuesday, the TMC's president and CEO said that hospitalizations went up to 90% in just a matter of weeks.

The more contagious Delta variant brought about new questions concerning masking.

If you're unvaccinated, the CDC says you absolutely need to wear a mask indoors. While the CDC has said you don't need to mask indoors if you're vaccinated, some local experts say you might want to.

At a media briefing, Dr. Peter Hotez with Baylor College of Medicine discussed some early research on the Delta variant. It shows the Delta variant sheds more viruses than other strains. If this, in fact, turns out to be the case, it could explain why we're seeing the virus spread more and why we're seeing breakthrough cases.

SEE ALSO: Vaccinated people can still contract COVID, and here's how it can happen

He said the CDC guidance on masking is more based on the original strain of the virus.

"All of the guidance that the Centers for Disease Control has put out about vaccinated people not needing masks were more or less based on the original linage, or the U.K. variant, the B.1.1.7, which made a lot of sense, and I agreed with their recommendations," said Hotez. "But now, if it's true that Delta is being shed in so much more abundance by both unvaccinated, and even vaccinated individuals, we may have to think about revisiting that, and that means that vaccinated individuals may want to think about wearing masks indoors, in areas of high transmission."

Dr. Paul Klotman, the president and CEO of Baylor College of Medicine, said we'll have to monitor things. However, he did say we may have to take a step back.

"I do think right now, when you walk into a place where there's a lot of people and you can't tell who's vaccinated, I'd wear a mask. I still wear a mask when I walk into a grocery store," said Klotman.

As for children, the American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending all children over two to wear masks, whether they're vaccinated or not.

The organization said opening schools generally does not significantly increase community transmission when masking and other safety measures are in place.

SEE ALSO: Fully vaccinated people protected against Delta variant, but Houston doctor urges caution

"There's nothing different today than there was last year, when the school year was getting started, about their risk for contracting COVID because of the overall number of people in America, and the number of people in Houston, who have not been vaccinated," said Dr. James McCarthy, the executive vice president and chief physicians executive at Memorial Hermann. "So when effectively half of the population has yet to be vaccinated, these children are still at risk. They're still at risk for spreading it to teachers [and] bringing it home to their parents."

Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order saying government entities, including schools, cannot require masking. HISD said that while it's not requiring students to wear masks, they are allowed.

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