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Virginia not changing face mask recommendations after WHO urges 'put them back on'

Health experts said the best way to protect yourself from the rapidly spreading Delta variant is to get vaccinated.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The World Health Organization is urging everyone to put their face masks back on to slow the spread of the more contagious Delta coronavirus variant.

About half of all people in Virginia are fully vaccinated, so many of them stopped wearing face masks in most public settings, following eased guidelines in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control.

“I’ve been vaccinated. I just think I’m done with COVID. COVID is over for me," Bubba Hope said. “I’m not an anti-masker. Look! I even have it here in case someone wants me to wear it; But really outside and all that; I’m done with COVID.” 

Another woman, Liz Ramos said: “It’s optional, and my option is to keep it on right now. I’m just concerned with everything, regardless of which variant it is.”

Dr. Parham Jaberi of the Virginia Department of Health said his team was keeping an eye on the Delta variant.

“I think the W.H.O. is basically saying it’s better to be safe than sorry," Jaberi said. "So if you have any concerns about your own health risks, it’s another layer of protection."

But, Jaberi said they don’t have plans, right now, to adjust facemask recommendations. 

“I don’t think there’s going to be changes as a result of the variant, at this time," he said. 

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“We’re going to have to see it, we’re going to play it week by week and see what the patterns hold and what they show -- are there going to be additional recommendations for masking, for gatherings? We certainly don’t believe there are going to be closures like we saw before.”

Dr. Edward Oldfield , an EVMS Infectious disease expert, said if you’re fully vaccinated, research shows you’re protected against the Delta variant.

“I’m wondering if this [WHO recommendation] has more to do with the less-effective vaccine used in other places of the world," he said. 

“Moderna and Pfizer are about 95% effective against all the strains, and about 90% effective against the Delta... The vaccines not only prevent infection, but very importantly, they are essentially 100% in preventing hospitalization and death," he said.

This new Delta coronavirus strain has been detected in Virginia and North Carolina – including a few cases in Norfolk and Chesapeake.

Right now, Virginians only have to wear a mask everywhere if they're not vaccinated. 

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