Why face masks may stick around even when the Covid-19 pandemic is over

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Now that the United States population is building immunity through vaccinations, some might wonder if we’ll still be wearing face masks on the other side of the pandemic. Public health officials have been loosening mask requirements.

Some people may choose to keep wearing a mask in public settings for many reasons including wanting to protect others from infections, and find relief from social anxiety.

Across the United States, local public health departments are starting to loosen their mask mandates.

Recent guidance states that vaccinated people can shed their masks in certain indoor settings and that unvaccinated people can often go maskless outdoors. Masks have, for the duration of the pandemic, served as protective shields against COVID-19.

They’ve protected us from inhaling aerosols and respiratory droplets carrying bits of the coronavirus, and they’ve protected others from being exposed to our potentially infectious droplets.

Now that the United States is building immunity through vaccinations, some might wonder if we’ll still be wearing face masks on the other side of the pandemic.
In Asia, people have worn masks for decades.

There, it is seen as a courtesy to mask up when you’re sick to stop germs from spreading to others.

The United States will likely see mask wearing decline as immunity increases, but many Americans will likely choose to hold onto their masks even after the pandemic ends.

Face masks provide protection against a range of infectious diseases. They protect us against COVID-19, but they can also act as a shield against common respiratory illnesses like influenza and the common cold.

“Since millions have been wearing masks, the common cold and flu virus in the last year was significantly less [prevalent] compared to years before,” says Dr. Bindiya Gandhi, an integrative and family medicine physician based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Asian countries have a long history of people wearing masks to prevent airborne transmission of infections. The practice became even more commonplace in Asia after the SARS outbreak in 2003.

“It seems likely and sensible that many people will continue to wear masks after the immediate threat of COVID-19 has subsided,” says Dr. David Cutler, a family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.

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