Pennsylvania’s statewide mask mandate will end on Monday, June 28, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Because UPMC is committed to protecting its most vulnerable members of the community, including immunocompromised individuals and unvaccinated patients, masks will still be required within all UPMC health care settings.
COVID-19 vaccines have “exceeded expectations of how well they protect people from illness and serious complications,” according to Dr. Graham Snyder, UPMC’s medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology. With COVID-19 vaccines widely available and cases declining, the end of the mandate makes sense for vaccinated members of the public.
“Our public health colleagues have determined that the benefit of easing restrictions to society in general outweigh the risk of transmission if we remove the mask mandate,” explained Snyder.
Snyder advises people to consider their own level of risk when deciding if they should continue masking.
“A vaccine is one layer of protection, and masking and distancing are also an effective layer of protection,” said Snyder. “However, if you are somebody who has a serious medical condition, such as a weakened immune system, the protection offered by the vaccine may not be complete. You consider wearing a mask so both layers of protection keep you safe.”
People with loved ones who are vulnerable to infection, and people who are unvaccinated, should also consider masking when potentially exposed to the virus to remain safe.
This situation-based decision making applies to travelling, as well. Snyder advises people to be aware of COVID-19 cases in different geographic areas and make smart decisions based on that information.
In addition to the availability of monoclonal antibodies as a COVID-19 therapy and the ability to mask and distance when necessary, Snyder emphasized that a key route to normalcy is the vaccine.
“Things are getting better in the U.S. because of a strong vaccination effort,” said Snyder. “The more people get vaccinated, the safer we will all be.”