Dr. Susan Fleischman answers questions about the current phase of the COVID-19 pandemic including the end of indoor mask mandates and what to do if you're immunocompromised.
Are we really moving into the endemic phase of COVID-19?
There is debate on this topic. The World Health Organization says we are not out of the pandemic phase yet as many parts of the world remain mostly unvaccinated. In the U.S., case rates are dropping, and the discussion about the “endemic” phase is more about how we “normalize” our lives and live with the virus.
Is it really okay for me to not wear a mask? In what situations should I continue to wear a mask?
California lifted its mask mandate for vaccinated individuals Feb. 16. Some counties will follow immediately, others are not ready to drop their mandates based on case rates and positivity rates. I will personally continue to wear a mask at indoor events until case rates are lower.
Are immunocompromised people at risk as mask mandates disappear? If so, how can they protect themselves?
Those who are immunocompromised can protect themselves by staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, continuing to wear a mask, and avoiding crowded indoor settings with unmasked people.
What are the chances that another variant will emerge?
It’s likely variants will continue to emerge, the question will be whether they are easily transmissible, or highly contagious, and how severe the illness is when people are infected.
How often will we need to get boosters in the future?
There is no guidance on this yet, but vaccinations may be recommended annually in the future, similar to the flu vaccine.
Dr. Susan Fleischman is chief medical officer at Blue Shield of California.