Can I take off my mask? How to navigate COVID-19 safely right now
Author: Asha Shah, MD, MS
After the omicron surge this winter, we are now entering a new phase of the pandemic and a lot of people are unsure of how to navigate life right now. While the coronavirus is ever-changing, to date the majority of the eight counties in Connecticut are at a low COVID-19 community level and people should feel comfortable returning to their pre-pandemic lifestyles.
What to know as a CT resident at this phase of the COVID-19 pandemic
Right now, according to CT COVID-19 guidelines, masks are optional in most settings and you don’t have to wear a mask indoors if you’re up to date on your vaccines. Masks are still required in health care settings and while on mass transportation and in transportation hubs. At this stage in time, it’s about your personal responsibility, for example if you live with someone who is high risk or immunocompromised, you may want to consider wearing a mask in public. It’s also important to wear a mask if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have had a high-risk exposure, or are completing your period of isolation after having COVID-19. We have the tools to protect ourselves against the severe impact of COVID-19, most importantly vaccines and boosters, but there are also many treatments available for those at higher risk.
I have young kids who aren’t vaccinated yet. Do I still need to wear a mask in public?
Most young children who contract COVID-19 have mild illness. That being said, severe disease can still be seen, especially in children who are immunocompromised or who have high-risk conditions. If your child is considered high-risk and is eligible for vaccination, then that should be your first step. To further protect them, you can mask in public.
Should 2-5 year-olds who are unvaccinated continue to wear masks in public or at daycare or schools?
According to CT COVID-19 guidelines, masks are optional now in most childcare settings and it’s up to your discretion and the rules and regulations of individual preschools and daycares. While masks are effective, it can be difficult for young kids to wear them appropriately for such a long period of time. Again, it comes to personal responsibility, and weighing the risks for your family. We no longer need to be afraid of COVID-19.
Is it OK to attend large gatherings?
Yes, accept those invitations – unless you’re sick. Stay home if you don’t feel well and get tested. Stay up to date with your vaccines. Save at-home COVID-19 tests for when you or someone in your household is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. That is the best time to use them.
We have the tools to help you if you become sick with COVID-19.
Do not be afraid if you become ill with COVID-19. Call your doctor and discuss treatment options and monitor your symptoms. Therapeutics are readily available in Connecticut for high-risk populations.
This is not the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and cases are rising in some parts of Europe due to the BA.2 variant. But we need to remind ourselves to take the good with the good and the bad with the bad. Due to the omicron surge, December and January were difficult. Take advantage of the low community levels across Connecticut right now, and reconnect with family and loved ones. If community levels rise, we will likely have to take extra precautions again. But right now, enjoy the favorable trends.