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'We are being very clear about this' | Everyone should be wearing a mask in indoor public settings, APH says

Austin Public Health leaders say even fully vaccinated people should be wearing masks in any indoor public space.

AUSTIN, Texas — In addition to getting vaccinated and regularly testing for COVID-19, Austin Public Health (APH) leaders say one of our oldest defenses against coronavirus is still one of the best: wearing masks.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Dec. 21, APH leaders said that everyone needs to be masking while inside public spaces, no matter what their vaccination status is.

"We are being very clear about this. We are asking people, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask in indoor public settings. And that includes indoor dining, indoor shopping, indoors in public with people that you do not know and you do not know their vaccination status," said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County's health authority. "This is the take-home message that we are saying, and it is also the message that our federal, CDC partners are saying and guiding the rest of the nation with."

While not much is known about the severity of the COVID-19 omicron variant, preliminary reports state that it is highly transmissible and health leaders confirmed Austin-Travis County does have community transmission of the variant at this time. That's why they say taking measures like getting the vaccine and wearing masks is as important as it's ever been.

"I feel like we know what works. Masking works and we've seen it work in our other surges and we've seen it, we've seen vaccination work in our other surges," said Dr. Janet Pichette, APH's chief epidemiologist. "I mean, I would say I thought we were done with [masking] in May because vaccination had such a positive impact on our number, the number of cases that we had. However, we are seeing upticks in cases. Just last week, we had a 34% increase in cases from the previous week. This week is not going to look much better. It may look worse, in fact."

Pichette said anything that can be done to stop disease transmission will have a positive impact on cases.

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