Never had COVID? As mask restrictions slowly disappear, what are the chances of getting it now?


LOS ANGELES — If you’ve never contracted COVID-19, what are the chances that things will stay that way given that many people have stopped wearing masks? Is it inevitable that everyone will be infected at some point?

Maya Shabtai, a student, said she contracted COVID in December. She is among the 43% of Americans who the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates have contracted the virus. That leaves about 57% of people who have never had it.

Adam Leisure from Los Angeles would like this to continue.

“What I’m going to do is always wear a mask myself. I always feel anxiety when I’m around a group of people I don’t know,” he said.

Now that mask restrictions are easing, Leisure wonders what the chances are of him contracting coronavirus now.

READ ALSO | Americans can now order another round of free home COVID-19 tests

“The risk of getting COVID really depends heavily on how much COVID is around you,” said Dr. Michael Ben-Aderet, associate medical director of hospital epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai.

He said the data shows the odds of meeting someone with COVID in LA County are quite low.

“Once we see that risk go down, that’s when our public health agencies make decisions to relax things like masking and distancing,” he said.

But individual risk varies based on our immune system, vaccinations, and behaviors, such as wearing a face covering.

“I think masking is always a really good idea,” Ben-Aderet said. “If someone around you has COVID and they’re masked and you’re masked, your risk of being exposed to COVID is significantly less.”

Some are happy to do away with face coverings.

“I don’t really like wearing a mask anymore,” said Los Angeles resident John Wheeler. “I’m at a point where I’ve had three shots.”

“I understand we can’t live like this for the rest of our lives. So I understand we’re going to have to move away from masks,” Shabtai said.

We’ll probably have to learn to live with COVID, but experts say that doesn’t mean infection is inevitable.

“We shouldn’t be flippant about catching COVID-19,” Ben-Aderet said. “We are still seeing hospitalized patients with COVID-19. We are still seeing patients dying from this disease. So preventing infection is still crucial, even if the number of cases is decreasing.”

Enjoy the new freedom, but keep an eye on the level of transmission in your community.

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