Friday Q&A: masks; long COVID; new COVID treatments; & waning immunity
You ask the best questions!
It’s Friday Q&A time!
This week is all about COVID. (Next week kicks off Mental Health Awareness month! My newsletter and podcast will be a deep dive into this topic.)
Check out this week’s newsletter on the CDC’s new guidance re: COVID boosters.
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The first question today (about masking) is for all subscribers. The remaining questions (about COVID treatments, waning immunity, and long COVID) are for paid subscribers.
Click here to submit your questions (about anything) for future Q&A posts!
Let’s dive in!
It worries me that a lot of places are dropping mask mandates. Should I still wear a mask?
I completely understand your concern. COVID is an ongoing threat. Masks have become a political lightening rod. It’s hard to know who to trust and what to believe.
The short story is this: the accumulated data on masking at a population level fails to show much, if any, benefit of masking. Because of the absence of evidence, and because of widespread population immunity due to vaccines and past infections, mask mandates have largely been dropped in the U.S., even in hospital systems.
Can masking help on an individual level? Sure. The degree to which a mask helps protect the wearer is highly variable, however. A mask can help reduce infection in the wearer if the mask is high-grade, well-fitted and worn consistently. Masks that are low-quality, that don’t have a tight seal on the wearer’s face, and that come on and off (i.e., to eat, drink, scratch the face, etc) aren’t doing much, if anything, for infection risk.
The upshot: I think that anyone who wants an added layer of protection of a mask absolutely should do so. Each of us is entitled to our unique tolerance for risk. What I worry about, particularly for my high-risk patients, is relying on their mask to protect them from infection. Especially for those patients, my best advice is to stay up-to-date with their vaccines; to work on their underlying health conditions; and to boost their innate immunity with nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management tools.
What about people in our midst who might be spreading disease? Unfortunately, we must accept that COVID is here to stay. We cannot eliminate COVID risk; we can only mitigate it. We have widespread population immunity and vaccines that dramatically reduce the risk for serious COVID outcomes, particularly for people at high risk. It’s now up to each of us (for better or worse) to protect ourselves from the risk of viral infections—and to give each other grace for having different tolerances for risk.
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Any updates on long COVID?
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