‘Very important tool’: Doctor says masks are still necessary in the late stages of the pandemic

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – As vaccinations rise and case counts drop, some Utahns are not covering their faces in public as much as they used to but today a doctor from Intermountain Healthcare who treats Covid-19 patients said don’t throw your masks in the trash just yet.

Even the top elected official in the state has had it with covering his nose and mouth.

“I can’t wait to not have to wear a mask,” Governor Spencer Cox (R) Utah said during a media briefing Thursday. “That day is coming very, very soon…We’re in this boat and we’re trying to get to the shore and we’re in the place now where we can see the shore.”

Echoing the Governor’s point, Dr. Brandon Webb, an Infectious Disease Physician with Intermountain Healthcare uses a sports analogy.

“We can see the finish line but the last thing we can afford to do is fumble the ball before we cross the goal line,” Dr. Webb said. “Mask wearing, as much as we’re all tired of it, has been a very important tool, a layer if you will.”

Dr. Webb says that between individuals who have been vaccinated and those with antibodies from having Covid-19, Utah has about 30 percent so-called “herd immunity”, meaning that 70 percent of the population, or about 2.25 million Utahns are still vulnerable to a virus that keeps mutating and evolving which could cause a 4th wave of cases.

“We’re still in the race between vaccination and variants,” Dr. Webb said. “The virus is just a machine. It’s a biological machine whose sole purpose is to survive by infecting others and it will continue to do that as long as there are susceptible individuals in the population. It doesn’t sleep. It doesn’t care about politics. It doesn’t care that we are all so tired of these precautions.”

Dr. Webb cautions that some places which have relaxed their mask mandates are seeing their case declines turn into plateaus.

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