Mask confusion: Navigating the new rules


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — To mask, or not to mask? That is the question.

“There is some confusion about that, but I think it’s also reflective of anxiety and the excitement that people do want to get back to that same sense of normalcy,” former State Health Commissioner Dr. Cynthia Romero told WAVY.

Romero, who is currently director of the M. Foscue Brock Institute for Community and Global Health at Eastern Virginia Medical School, explained that the new rules took some by surprise because we haven’t yet reached herd immunity.

“We have not gotten to the herd immunity status which is getting closer to the about 85% of the general population vaccinated,” Romero said.

That is why, she said, masks are still required for people on public transportation and in large communal settings such as jails and homeless shelters.

“One of the challenges of having this environment of people not having masks is there is really no ongoing way to verify at any one given moment if anyone has really been vaccinated or not. And certainly, we are basing it on the honor system,” she said.

When asked to clarify the new rules in Virginia: the Chesapeake Health Department shared some guidance.

Here’s their statement: “The message from the amended Executive Order 72 is still basically the same… If you are susceptible to getting the virus, wear a mask. The real change is that now not wearing a mask is no longer an enforceable offense. It boils down to the decision of the business and the individual.”

The truth will be told in the data.

As Romero told WAVY, public health officials will continue to keep a close eye on the daily case count, hospitalizations and deaths.

“To see what we might have to do as soon as the numbers continues to move one way or the other,” Romero said.

The case numbers could dictate ditching the masks all together or going back to stricter rules.

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