Epidemiologist says Orange County could reach final phase of mask mandate by end of summer

He says latest guidance from CDC is premature on return to normalcy

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened mask guidelines for outdoor activities, Orange County leaders announced they would ease restrictions on mask coverings in three phases.

It’s a decision with some differences of opinion by public health experts including Professor Ali Mokdad with the University of Washington.

“The CDC is not recommending that we stop mask mandates in states and the CDC is not recommending that we stop wearing a mask indoors,” the epidemiologist said.

[RELATED: Orange County mayor plans to announce first step to easing mask rules]

Professor Mokdad said the CDC has been cautious in its guidance throughout the pandemic but now he says the latest guidance is premature on the return to normalcy.

“To link vaccination to mask-wearing by [the] CDC in my opinion is a big mistake, vaccination is always associated with herd immunity,” he said.

Prior to his role at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Professor Mokdad worked at the CDC and said Orange County’s mask mandate changes might be confusing the public.

“Come winter we have to change it, we have to go back, we have to convince the public, ‘hold on a second wear your mask again, go back to six feet’ most of the public will say, ‘you told me to take off my mask’, “Mokdad said.

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The scientific reasoning and selective mask timelines put forth by the CDC is what some public health experts have an issue with.

“What we are concerned about is the people who are not wearing a mask or getting the vaccine, why would we ask them to take off their mask,” he said.

While the updated restrictions still call for wearing a mask when you’re in large groups where you can’t social distance, whether you are vaccinated or not. Mokdad said that is situational.

“People will hear we don’t need a mask, they will not distinguish between outdoor and indoor, people will hear we are going to reduce the space to three feet,” he said.

Professor Mokdad said there could be a return to normalcy come June, July or August.

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