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Wondering If It’s Safe To Go Outside Without Masks? Here’s A Quick Analysis By A Specialist

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

After more than one and a half years of the pandemic, everything we want is to go back to our normal lives and see our friends, go to parties, celebrate with family, and enjoy life the way we couldn’t do with safety since March 2020. We’re all anxious for this moment, and the vaccination brought hope to everyone and made the Covid-19 infection and death rates face a considerable decrease. 

But, although life is now gradually allowing us to reheat our social lives and to be more tranquilized about the coronavirus pandemic, there are still some doubts around the upcoming easing of the restrictions in the protocols of prevention established during this period, such as the need to use masks even in open-air spaces like parks and other ones with more air circulation than a closed one. Rio de Janeiro and the Federal District are already allowing people to go outside in open spaces without masks, even though using them in public transportation and other kinds of indoor structures is still mandatory.

In São Paulo, this discussion went on a different way: on November 10th, the city hall of the city decided to keep the use of masks in outdoor spaces as mandatory, after an analysis of some rates and data about the Covid-19 pandemic in the state capital. According to mayor Ricardo Nunes and Edson Aparecido, the Secretary of Health, the discussion of easing of the restrictions, like the use of masks in open-air spaces, will be reassessed in December.

This difference of measures between one place and another can be easily explained due to the pandemic scenario in each state and city in general and the posture of the politicians of each place, but some people might get in doubt: after all, is it safe to go outside without masks already?

Looking for an in-depth analysis, we interviewed the infectious disease specialist Rodrigo Molina, from the Brazilian Society of Infectious Disease Specialists, and he clarified some points about the pandemic and the possibility of not using masks to do activities outdoor spaces already. Check out some important highlights to pay attention to:

How is the pandemic scenario?

Compared to last year — or some months ago, when the vaccination wasn’t so intense yet — the pandemic scenario is already safer in the country, especially among the fully vaccinated people. According to the latest statistics available related to the vaccination, almost 60% of the population was vaccinated with both doses necessary, or with the Janssen vaccine, which requires, until now, only one dose. 

Rodrigo Molina says that there are some important points about the pandemic scenario to consider while discussing the use of masks: “The criteria for us to evaluate the easing of the use of masks would be the presence of control of the number of cases in the cities, the decrease of the occupation rates in hospitals and the decrease of the numbers of new cases. These would be the main ones.” All of these effects are connected to the vaccination, which is capable of influencing positively the gravity of Covid-19 cases and helping to diminish the virus circulation. 

Be careful with agglomerations

If the use of masks becomes optional, the infectious diseases specialist stresses that it is essential to still be careful with the agglomerations, even if the space is not indoor or has good ventilation. “One thing is not using it in an open space without agglomeration, and another one is the use in a space which has lots of people in it. The ideal is that there are no agglomerations, that there is social distancing between people. In this scenario, it would be safe not to use masks in outdoor spaces”, he says. 

According to Rodrigo Molina, the easing of the measures that make the use of masks mandatory is also connected to special care to other aspects, like social distancing. “To guarantee safety, we need to keep a distance. It’s no use to be in an outdoor space but crowded with people because there is no appropriate circulation between people. What we require is social distancing, and then, in places such as parks and other places where people can practice sports in the street, for example, we could dispense with the use of masks.”

In indoor spaces, like coffee shops, malls, restaurants, and other kinds of places, Rodrigo thinks that we shouldn’t consider taking out our masks yet due to the high risk of contamination, related to things like the poor ventilation and circulation of people. “WHO [World Health Organization] still keeps the declaration of a pandemic, so, in my vision, while it remains, we should keep using our masks in indoor spaces”, the specialist says.

Non-vaccinated kids: is it dangerous for them?

In this scenario, we are always considering that the majority of people – or even all the ones in a certain space – are vaccinated, since all the population from 12 years old to beyond already can be vaccinated in Brazil. But the families must not forget about the kids under this age, which is still not contemplated by the vaccine. Molina remembers that, when we talk about non-vaccinated kids, we need to consider the situation and be even more careful: “In this case, it is more difficult, with the non-vaccinated kids. We know that this disease is less serious and harmful in children, so there is some safety. But we can’t guarantee that, so the best option would be keeping the use of masks in kids where there are agglomerations.” 

Everyone, including the children, can’t wait to feel like the pandemic is only a bad memory from the past; but while we are still fighting for it, keeping calm and taking care of you and your loved ones is always the best option.

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