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Now that more people are getting the COVID-19 vaccine, how long will we wear masks?

Does getting the shot mean no more masks?
Virus Outbreak masks crowd
Posted at 1:36 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 13:41:15-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - As COVID-19 cases fall and the number of people fully vaccinated rises, many wonder when the state and county will begin to roll back restrictions placed during the pandemic.

"We're definitely not there yet," said Dr. Abisola Olulade with Sharp Rees-Stealy, when asked if it's time to toss the masks. "I think this is the end of the beginning of the Pandemic."

Dr. Olulade says, even as hundreds of thousands of San Diegans get the vaccine, there's still a lot we don't know about exactly how much protection it provides. Some studies have shown that it can slow the transmission of the virus, but they are not conclusive.

"We still have to remember that you may be able to transmit (the virus), and you may be able to spread it still," said Dr. Olulade. "It just means that we have to have more resilience to protect others in our community."

The CDC says they're working to "learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions," and that they "don't yet know whether getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to other people, even if you don't get sick yourself."

Until that information is available, their website says people who have gotten the vaccine should wear masks, wash hands, avoid gatherings, and stay at least six feet away from others. But they may release new guidelines this week for people who are vaccinated.

Meanwhile, NIH Director Dr. Anthony Fauci says he feels people who have been vaccinated should be allowed to gather in small groups without masks. He's called on the CDC to update their findings.

There is also the issue of herd immunity, where people who aren't vaccinated still get protection from the large percentage of people who are.

According to the World Health Organization, researchers are still trying to determine what that percentage should be for COVID-19. For measles, it's 95%. For polio, it's 80%.

Right now, the U.S. only has roughly 8% of the population fully vaccinated.

That means it could be months until mask mandates and business closures end nationwide, even as states like Texas and Mississippi repeal their restrictions.

But Dr. Olulade says she's hopeful that the steps we took to get this far will carry us to the finish line.

"The virus is not what has all the power," she said. "We have a lot of power. So it depends on us and our ability to continue to follow these guidelines and measures and realize that we're not at the end."

This story originally reported by Jared Aarons on 10News.com.