Can I safely go maskless? Here is what science tells us.

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As covid-19 becomes endemic, can we safely remove our masks on airplanes and in crowded spaces? An elderly patient today was just beginning to go out and experience the world again and realized she needed a chiropractic visit after a self-imposed lockdown. Many people stayed away from living normally due to fear of covid-19.  Most of these fears were amplified by the news, isolation, like-minded others, and the resulting PTSD. She had been fully vaccinated which affords a good level of protection from serious covid disease. People are realizing that it is safe to go out and breathe the air again. Few people are getting anything other than cold from the current covid-19 variants which appear to evade masking and very few are having a severe illness. The Florida court ruling which overrode the CDC's extended masking schedule allowed airplanes to finally go maskless as well as airline terminals and other types of mass transit   Some cheered this return to normal, while others defiantly wore their n95 masks.

What does the science say about all of this?

While we know masks will reduce particle transmission, not all masks do this as effectively. For many wearing, less effective masks did not mean they were becoming ill while some with more effective masks did.  Omicron seemed to evade most masks and broadly infected the public which resulted in natural immunity from future infections. community immunity is a good thing for the health of the public

Is masking healthy for us and what will happen when we decide to go maskless?

Going maskless at a baseball stadium or outdoor concert is becoming more commonplace.  The good news is that we are not seeing more people getting very ill. It is possible that the new variants are not making us as ill as previous covid-19 infections, however, the vaccines may also be playing a part as they help us avoid severe illness but appear to allow breakthrough infections. Many who wear masks continue to assume that those who don't are getting ill.   This is an assumption and not a fact as many mask wearers have gotten covid and developed natural immunity on top of their vaccine immunity. Of those who developed illness, many had a common cold and some were a common covid-19 variant.  Many positive take-home tests aren't reported. It is also true that most people are feeling fine after a 5-day period of time or less including my 95-year-old mom, although you can still test positive days or weeks later.

Do we really need another booster, or is mother nature doing a better job of making us immune?

Data from Pfizer is not convincing many scientists that most people require a second booster unless they were immunocompromised which meant they required a three-shot regimen for initial full immunity with Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.   Most science suggests that immunity can last a lifetime.   Vaccine immunity will begin with antibodies. Then long-term immune elements that are not fully understood by the scientific community offer us lasting immunity. Natural immunity will act in a similar manner and may be far more effective in preventing future illnesses to this virus according to an Israeli study, We and other animals have evolved over thousands of years so our immune systems can work in the background to help us develop immunity to our environment.   Since this happens in the background from constantly being micro-dosed by everything we breathe, we are here today because this system works and continues to adapt to new challenges. With regards to covid-19, many mixed messages were offered by the media, political beliefs, and the CDC regarding masking, social distancing, and eating in restaurants. We are evolving now to be immune to current and future variants of covid-19 by breathing.  Most of us who are exposed will either fight this off with an illness that is short-lived regardless of vaccination status or will do so asymptomatically. Those who were vaccinated are likely to have a less severe illness. Basically, everyone is getting this virus eventually courtesy of mother nature. A previous covid-19 illness is likely to offer you full immunity to many future variants which may actually teach us how viruses work. Years ago, every restaurant had purell dispensers with the belief that this helped us prevent disease transmission.  The result is that more people became ill as this interfered with micro-dosing. Ironically, people put their phone to their face which was full of bacteria and other potentially infective things without a thought of how healthy this is. These same folks are sanitizing their airplane seats which likely does nothing to prevent anything.  Fear is driving these cleaning and avoidance behaviors.  Habit is how we answer our phones and are constantly micro-dosing which is good for our immunity.

Is masking keeping us healthy and safe?

Masking can reduce the likelihood of someone infecting you and you are protecting them too.   While this sounds like a good idea, it also does the following:
  • You breathe in your own carbon dioxide which is not good for us.
  • It reduces micro-dosing which is how we develop ongoing immunity. When worn long term, when they come off, you are likely to get more colds initially which may explain why our cold flu, and covid season this year was so bad.
  • It can make it more difficult to breathe.
  • Speaking to others is muffled and more difficult.
  • Long-term use is less sanitary than breathing fresh air.
Does a mask reduce the covid risk if you have asthma or other problems?  Is it riskier to make it difficult for your immune system to normally function by wearing a mask?   There are many opinions on either side of the argument but they may not be based on science but on fear of the unknown.   What we often fail to accept is the immune system for most of us just works as it is designed.   Masks interfere with this. vaccines may help but ultimately, mother nature allows viruses to change and infect us anyway resulting in natural immunity.

What happened when the masks came off on my recent plane ride?

Some folks dutifully wore their masks even though it was no longer required trying to stay safe.   Others, including me, went without knowing that the airlines have improved their filtering systems and that during flights, fresh air is frequently pushed into the cabin.  Most airline attendants were mask-free. I am fully vaccinated and had covid-19 with my spouse a year and a half ago.  I have no illnesses from either flight.  Prior to covid-19, this was the norm. The experience of returning to normal must include removing our masks.   For some, this will be scary.  For others, liberating as we embrace the return to normal. A legal challenge to extending masking on mass transit had overridden the CDC extensions for masking.  Few people are getting ill or being hospitalized from covid anymore regardless of masking, cleaning, or other pandemic-related behaviors. It is my opinion that taking off the masks and avoiding over-sanitizing is the last page in the covid saga.   Masking is not healthy for us as it interferes with normal immune function even in the immunocompromised. We continue to ask patients to mask up in our offices because the governor is telling us we must.   As soon as he says otherwise, our offices will go maskless.   Normal may include masking only if you have a cold and do not wish to infect others, not because you are afraid of viruses.  While we all have individual beliefs, science tells us that we need to be unmasked.

In conclusion

Masking has served its purpose as a cheap way to reduce transmission with an unvaccinated public.  PPE was in short supply and was often hoarded and sold at crazy prices since we have no national distribution policy and were woefully unprepared for this. Unlike the aliens from War of the Worlds who died from exposure to our atmosphere from what to them was a novel virus, covid-19 is no longer a novel virus as we have adapted as we have over thousands of years. It's time to stop being afraid, go maskless, and allow your immune system to do what it does best, keeping you healthy naturally.