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Health experts encourage masks regardless of vaccination status as Columbia City Council prepares for vote


Amid a recent spike in new cases caused by the high transmissible delta variant, health experts such as the American Medical Association and the Columbia/Boone County Health Department are urging people regardless of vaccination status to wear a mask in areas of high transmission.

Emerging data indicate that vaccinated individuals infected with the delta variant have similar viral loads as those who are unvaccinated and can transmit the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts say the coronavirus vaccines remain safe and effective in preventing severe COVID-19 complications like hospitalization and death.

And wearing a mask is an important protective measure that can help everyone stay safer, according to the AMA.

Watch the Columbia City Council special meeting to vote on a mask mandate live at 7 p.m. in the player below.

The AMA strongly supports the CDC's updated recommendations calling for universal masking in areas of high COVID-19 transmission, regardless of vaccination status.

"Fully vaccinated people might choose to mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in their household is unvaccinated. People who are at increased risk for severe disease include older adults and those who have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, overweight or obesity, and heart conditions," the CDC stated.

Infections in fully vaccinated people, known as breakthrough infections, can happen, and happen in a small population of people who are fully vaccinated.

Infections in vaccinated individuals tend to be mild. However, people who become infected with the delta variant can become infectious and spread the virus to others. Masks can help to stop the spread of the virus between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, experts say.

The Columbia/Boone County Health Department encourages all individuals to wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status in order to protect children and other people that are vulnerable.

Stephanie Browning, director of the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, asked the Columbia City Council to strongly consider having masks in city facilities last week. The city implemented the requirement the next day. Boone County also requires masks in the county government center and annex.

"I really believe everybody should be wearing their mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, because we need to protect our kids, we need to protect people that are vulnerable," Browning said.

The health department reported 693 active COVID-19 cases in Boone County as of Friday, with 108 people hospitalized. Of those, 37 were in intensive care and 22 were on a ventilator.

The Columbia City Council is holding a meeting to vote on a mask mandate Monday night.

The council will need six of its seven members to vote in favor of the order to implement the mandate as an emergency measure. If passed, it would require everyone 5 and older to wear a mask if they are within 6 feet of other people and would last 30 days unless it's changed by another order.

Check back and watch ABC 17 News at 5 and 6 for more on this developing story.

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Leila Mitchell

Leila is a Penn State graduate who started with KMIZ in March 2021. She studied journalism and criminal justice in college.


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