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Health director: Masks optional for students is 'reasonable' since 'we are on downswing'

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Posted at 1:25 PM, Mar 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 13:25:48-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Elise Carey wants to move on from COVID-19 and just live lifelike she used to before 2020, "but then there are these setbacks where I am reading these articles."

One of those articles was about a recent study "that said regardless of vaccination status, age or health people are developing cardiovascular issues [post COVID] and this is just really concerning to me."

Even with the CDC's new guidance that drops indoor masking and social distancing recommendations if COVID hospitalizations and case numbers reach a certain level, Carey remains wary.

"I feel like I am constantly trying to get to the next step, but there is something that is holding me back," Carey said.

RELATED: County-by-county look at COVID-19 cases in Virginia; which areas saw most cases last week

In fact, in Richmond, where Carey lives, numbers have dropped low enough that the CDC does not recommend masking in school or indoor settings, but Dr. Melissa Viray, the acting director of the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, said she understands why Carey still feels COVID fear.

"It's fair to be really concerned, this is a virus that has changed that has ripped up our life," Viray said.

Carey is not alone.

A recent AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs research poll found nearly one out of every four people is still "extremely" or "very worried" about COVID, and another 34 percent are "somewhat" worried.

"Do you think that's the right place to be right now mentally, or should people back down?" CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit asked Viray.

"Where we are is a place where we have better tools to be able to ride these waves so right now we are on the downswing and maybe we can loosen things up a bit and be more relaxed about things," Viray said.

Viray said every family should do their own risk assessment and do what is best for their family, but be flexible.

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Children wearing masks in Richmond Schools.

"In your opinion, is it absolutely OK for a child in Richmond or a child in Henrico to go to school now and not wear a mask?" Hipolit asked Viray.

"Yeah I think it's reasonable to have the option to wear the mask, but I think they don't have to wear a mask because of where we are with COVID right now. Again if we have another variant coming down the pipeline, and we have to go back into red, I'm probably going to be back on your screen saying, 'Things are different now we have to go back,'" Viray said.

For that reason, Viray said people should keep their masks handy.

"Don't do arts and crafts with your masks because we may need them again," Viray said.

Click here to track your community's risk level on the CDC website.

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Mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Richmond Raceway.

Virginians age 5+ are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. Go to Vaccine Finder to search for specific vaccines available near you or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343).

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for the most complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Have You Been Fully Vaccinated?

People are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
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What you can and should not do once you have been fully vaccinated.

How to Protect Yourself and Others When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated

COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions—like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces—in public places until we know more.

These recommendations can help you make decisions about daily activities after you are fully vaccinated. They are not intended for healthcare settings.

Click here for more information from the Virginia Department of Health.