With COVID-19 cases dropping, are masks here to stay? We take that question to a metro health expert

ATLANTA — With COVID-19 cases on the decline and vaccinations on the rise, health officials say now is not the time to let down your guard.

Channel 2′s Justin Wilfon spoke with Dr. Mark Cohen of Piedmont Healthcare who said that despite the falling case numbers, you still need to use a mask — at least for now.

“We’re really excited about the number of people being vaccinated and think it’s approaching 100 million in the US. And if we add that to the number of people who have actually had COVID, who presumably have a great deal of immunity, we’re getting up to a third, maybe even a half of the population who are no longer susceptible to COVID,” Cohen said.

“But, when we look at the statistics, there’s still a lot of people every day who are catching it, and even those who have been vaccinated, need to remember that they’re not guaranteed that they’re immune from catching COVID. They could even catch it, kind of have a mild case and not know it, then pass it on to grandma, pass it on to their children. So, we are not out of this yet. And we absolutely have to keep up with our social distancing, hand hygiene and mask wearing.”

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Wilfon asked Cohen whether, when we finally reach herd immunity, we will still need to wear a mask.

“I don’t know. I mean, we look around the world and definitely countries in the Far East have worn masks for a long time. One observation from this year, is that there has been very, very little influenza. It’s almost a near-record year for how low the flu cases are, and we believe that is from our hand hygiene, social distancing and mask wearing,” Cohen said.

He told Wilfon he thinks wearing a mask has become a habit and people will continue to wear one regardless of whether COVID-19 is still around or not.

“So next year, I think a lot people will be realizing that they got used to wearing masks, it’s socially acceptable. If you go into the bank, they don’t think you’re there to rob it. And you know you’re on the bus, you’re on the airplane, probably not a bad idea to keep it on you,” Cohen said. “Remember, for now, wear your mask.”