'Almost to the finish line': Is it time to ease the mask mandates? UNC doctor says not just yet

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- As Wake County's COVID metrics continue to trend downward, health officials have yet to drop the county's mask mandate.

Updated guidance from public health officials for the county state the daily percent positive rate needs to be below five percent and the seven-day average per 100,000 people needs to be fewer than 50. Currently, Wake County has a 3.1% positivity rate and 87 cases per 100,000.

These figures point to the county's 'substantial' transmission marker on the CDC dashboard.

"I think we are beyond fatigue with some of the mitigation. But the the risk of not doing this is then we're going to get fatigue with lots more sick people and deaths," said UNC infectious diseases expert Dr. David Wohl. "Everything is lining up. We have to get through the last mile. We're almost at the finish line."

Dr. Wohl offered his thoughts on mask mandates as people regularly mention mask fatigue. He suggests it's too soon to ease the mandate.

"That's what what happened last year," Wohl said. "We gave up on some of our mitigation strategies. And we had a winter and then a Delta variant...and half the deaths that occurred...after Thanksgiving."

Ahead of the holiday, vaccine manufacturer Pfizer said their booster shot takes two full weeks to be considered fully protected.

"If you can get it," Dr. Wohl said, "do it now."

He fears the Thanksgiving holiday will prove itself to be a challenge with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people for family and friend gatherings.

His hope, along with others in the science community, is that people celebrate safely so cases will continue to plummet.

"We're all tired. We all want to see this and I think there is hope. I do think that once we could get through this winter, when we see cases stay low or get even lower," said Wohl. "Look in your rear view mirror...we weathered that. We're on the right slope. We're going down. That's great. Let's keep applying the pressure and let's let's not let it up."
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