Could relaxed mask guidance cause spike in COVID-19 cases?

Coronavirus

DENVER( KDVR) — Gov. Jared Polis’ announcement Friday that masks would no longer be required across the state was met with excitement and some concern.

“I think people have to proceed with caution,” said Dr. Eric Lung, Chief Medical Officer at Sky Ridge Medical Center.

Lung said loosening mask guidance is an encouraging step in the pandemic recovery process, but worries it could possibly lead to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

“To have people in society not wearing a mask — whether they’re vaccinated or not — I thought could cause another surge,” said Lung.

Sky Ridge is prepared to handle an increase in cases, Lung said.

“I think the message is still that we need to get more people vaccinated. My concern would be that if there’s no mask mandate, then people who were on the fence and haven’t been vaccinated, that there’s really no incentive for them to do so,” said Lung.

The guidance from Polis says vaccinated people do not have to wear a mask unless a business requires it. If you’re not vaccinated, masks are still suggested for indoor settings.

New data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows “breakthrough” cases make up a very small portion of all new COVID-19 cases in the state. As of Friday, 2,046 people who were fully vaccinated had been infected out of more than 151,424 total cases since mid-January — just over 1.3% of all new cases.

Among the reported 2,064 cases, there were 136 hospitalizations and 24 deaths. State health officials say those are not necessarily due to COVID-19.

Lung said he’s more concerned about a potential spike in cases among unvaccinated people as opposed to a rise in breakthrough cases.

“The message is pretty clear — the vaccine does work and I can only encourage people to get vaccinated,” said Lung.

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