CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With the lifting of the indoor mask mandate in North Carolina and encouragement that unvaccinated people continue to mask, there are some re-emerging claims that if those without shots go maskless in spite of the new guidance, it is only hurting themselves.
If an unvaccinated person goes maskless, is it only a risk to themselves at this point?
Health experts say, even with some levels of vaccination in the population, an unvaccinated person going maskless is not just making a risk decision for themselves, they are also deciding for others around them, including for people who might not even have access to the vaccine yet.
According to Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist for South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control, unvaccinated people ditching masks in public still have the potential to cause outbreaks.
"The flaw in that logic is that when members of the population, especially large numbers of the population are not well-protected, that continues to put us all at risk. It continues to lead to potential surges," Bell said.
The fact of the matter is, in the Carolinas, more people than not are without full COVID-19 protection. Both North and South Carolina are reporting full vaccination levels under 40 percent.
Dr. Ashley Perrott, a senior physician executive with Novant Health, says, with vaccine eligibility only going as young as 12 years of age, some of that vaccination slump is not by choice.
"We know there are a certain number of people who will not be able to get vaccinated. A huge group of those people is under the age of 12," Perrot said. "We just want to be sure that we give anyone the opportunity to receive the vaccine who wants one."
Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a mask is not just about protecting the person wearing it. It states that going maskless allows your respiratory droplets, and potentially the virus, to get to others.
"They're potentially not just harming themselves. They're harming their family members and their community," Perrott said.
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