'Then it was like nope, mask on': Masks return to Durham dance studio amid latest omicron subvariant

Thursday, July 14, 2022
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As contagious as BA.5 may be, with spikes in the daily infection rates, Duke University's Dr. David Montefiori said the waves will continue to happen but they're not as bad as they were before.

Like dancing to the rhythm, Empower Dance Studio found themselves moving back and forth, but with COVID-19 protocols and what to do with masks as the coronavirus continues to mutate.

The latest omicron subvariant BA.5 demonstrating owner Nicole Oxendine's decision to be consistent, after the mask mandate in Durham was lifted in March.

"Masks off, we're good we can come back," Oxendine said. "And then it was like nope, mask on. I was like you know what, what we're going to do is keep it pretty consistent for us."

Durham County is one of several in North Carolina with high COVID-19 community levels, according to the CDC.

As contagious as BA.5 may be, with spikes in the daily infection rates, Duke University's Dr. David Montefiori said the waves will continue to happen but they're not as bad as they were before.

"That is because we finally built up enough population immunity from people getting vaccinated, getting infected, or a combination of both," Montefiori said. "That it's starting to keep this virus in check, to some extent."

There are more breakthrough cases with BA.5 but people aren't being hospitalized or dying as much as they used to, according to Montefiori.

"What's going on here is the antibodies that the vaccine induces in your body, they are three times less effective against the original BA.1 omicron," Montefiori said. "And they are ten times less effective against the BA.5 omicron variant. So now, because these variants have evolved in a way to partially escape being seen by those antibodies, that is why we're seeing more breakthrough infections than what we saw before."

As more adults become eligible for a 4th booster shot, UNC Health's Dr. David Wohl discussed the misunderstanding of vaccine protection.

"They do protect you from infection," Wohl said. "It's not as good as it used to be for previous parents, but for BA.5, your booster will protect you. It won't be 100% but you'd rather have some armor ... than no armor."

For Oxendine, it's a continued effort to learn to live with the virus, but not impossible to do.

"I just don't want to go back to that place where we had to shut down, we're forced to close as a business," Oxendine said. "Putting the mindset on that it's not over, but it's just how can we live in the space and in this with this disease?"