Dr. Jose Perez is the Chief Medical Officer at the South Central Family Health Center in Los Angeles, California. (306467)
Dr. Jose Perez is the Chief Medical Officer at the South Central Family Health Center in Los Angeles, California. Credit: South Central Family Health Center

To mask or not to mask… that is the question on the minds of many, especially in Los Angeles County, as the highly contagious delta variant has become the dominant coronavirus strain in California.

The LA County Department of Public Health is currently recommending that even vaccinated people should wear masks in all indoor situations, like grocery stores and shopping malls.

In South Los Angeles, experts continue to point out the rate of vaccination is significantly lower for Black and Brown people, when compared to White people across LA County.

“It’s clear that masking works,” said Dr. Jose Perez, the Chief Medical Officer at South Central Family Health Center in Los Angeles.

“My recommendation to everyone in the South LA area is to wear a mask.”

However, California’s economy reopened on June 15, lifting most statewide restrictions. With that in mind, many residents are rightfully confused as to whether or not they should continue to wear masks. The problem is, it depends on who you ask.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said vaccinated people do not have to wear a mask, while the World Health Organization (WHO) is strongly suggesting that vaccinated people should continue wearing their masks.

Meanwhile, local governments, like Los Angeles County are issuing their own guidelines, depending on local vaccination rates and the rapid spread of the Delta variant, which has caused many to rethink masking guidelines.

“Masks help, especially if you double mask,” said Dr. Eric Feigl Ding, a public health scientist who is currently a Senior Fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. “The issue is whether vaccinated people should wear masks.”

Ding said the Delta variant spread twice as fast and it is four times more severe than the original COVID-19 virus.

“You mask to protect others,” Ding continued.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ben Neuman, the Chief virologist at the Global Health Research Complex at Texas A&M University said he believes people who don’t want to wear a mask are searching for official recommendations to justify that decision, ultimately choosing to listen to whatever voice that says what they want to hear.

“Masks are universal against all strains of the coronavirus,” Ding added.

“The demand for vaccines is dropping in South LA,” Perez said. “I think masks are here to stay.”

Perez said unvaccinated people should worry the most about getting extremely sick and possibly dying from the virus, though no pandemic lasts forever. This health crisis will end.

“The question is, how many people will we lose on the way there,” said Perez.

Eventually, residents will attain herd immunity, experts said and COVID-19 and COVID-19 variants will die out. However, there’s no timetable on when that will happen, so residents will most likely be asked to wear masks intermittently in the future.

“Get vaccinated, it is not a political thing, and wear a mask. You will save lives in the process,” Perez concluded.