It was a year ago that I took care of my first Covid patient. I didn’t know that at the time. He had been skiing in Colorado and developed a fever and a sore throat. He didn’t improve upon his return and came into the office. It has long been our practice to ask patients to put on a mask when they come to the office if they are sick. He wore a mask, I didn’t. I examined him. We decided to treat his symptoms. He got better. I did not get sick. He had a surgical procedure some months later and the institution in where it was performed checked him with a PCR for Covid and also did an antibody test. They quit doing this a short time later because they weren’t recommended, but his was positive. The following week a pandemic was declared and we all began to wear masks.
Local and national cases are declining. I am cautiously optimistic, but several things bother me. Spring break is here. That’s when things really hit the fan last year. There are variants out there that are more infectious and more lethal. There is some concern that the vaccines may be less effective against them. And the state mask mandate ended. We have declared victory in the past year only to see cases rise. It would be more prudent to me to maintain what is working.
Here is a summary of an article from Morbidity and Mortality Weekly followed by a link to the article dealing with the impact of mask mandates.
Impacts of mask mandates, dining? State-issued mask mandates were associated with a slowing of COVID-19 case and death rates within 20 days of the orders going into effect — whereas reopening onsite dining at restaurants was associated with an acceleration in case and death rates within 61–80 days — according to a report in MMWR. In particular, in the analysis of U.S. county-level data from March through December 2020, researchers found that the daily COVID-19 death growth rate dropped by 0.7 percentage points in the 20 days after mask mandates went into effect — reaching a 1.9-percentage-point decrease by 81–100 days. Separately, the death growth rate increased by 2.2 percentage points at 61–80 days after onsite dining resumed — and by 3.0 percentage points at days 81–100. The researchers write: “With the emergence of more transmissible COVID-19 variants, community mitigation measures are increasingly important as part of a larger strategy to decrease exposure to and reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2.”
Is it safe to go to a restaurant? It is safer if you are immunized. It is safer if there is less virus in circulation. It is probably safer if you sit outside. I’ll go to a restaurant if the tables are spread out, it is well ventilated and I am not close to other people, but as the counts rise, I become more cautious and spend more time at home. There’s no safe, only safer.