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States Muddle The CDC's Message On Masks

A photo of a single use mask.
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Last week, Texas joined Montana and a handful of other states in lifting its statewide mask mandate, a move that runs counter to warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Monday, Wyoming’s governor announcedthat the mask mandate there will be lifted on March 16.

The CDC says loosening safety protocols too early could negate any ground gained in the fight against the virus.

Dr. Amy Price agrees. The research scientist at the Stanford School of Medicine notes that previous surges of the novel coronavirus occurred with fewer active cases than now.

“When you have that much virus in the air, and you don't even have half the population vaccinated, it's not like you have created a climate of immunity,” Price said.

She says political leaders have the power to lead by example.

“Anyone who is in a leadership position, if they show a unified front over ‘Yes, I'm going to be vaccinated’ or ‘Yes, I'm choosing to wear a mask,’ it's important. And the way these people who are leaders wear their masks and operate with others, it's an example to those people who watch them,” Price said.

But when political leaders go against medical recommendations, it causes confusion.

“Then the message is, ‘Oh, you don't have to wear a mask.’ ” Price said. “People don't know what to do. They don't know what to do with inconsistent information.” Such is the result of the U.S. lacking a unified public health message, she says.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the CDC issued new recommendations for those who have received COVID-19 vaccines.

“After you've been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions in public places like wearing a mask, staying six feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces until we know more,” the agency said.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Stephanie Serrano (she/her/ella) is an award-winning multimedia bilingual journalist based in Reno, Nevada. Her reporting is powered by character-driven stories and is rooted in sound-rich audio. Her storytelling works to share the experiences of unserved communities in regards to education, race, affordable housing and sports.
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