It’s ‘very possible’ we will continue seasonal mask-wearing: UCLA Assistant Professor

Dr. Fauci says that masks may be seasonal post-pandemic. UCLA School of Nursing Assistant Professor Kristen Choi joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the latest with COVID-19.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Joining us now for more on where we sit in this recovery in the pandemic, I want to bring on our next guest. Kristen Choi is UCLA School of Nursing Assistant Professor. She joins us once again here. Good to be chatting with you again today. I mean, you heard Dr. Fauci's thoughts there. And it's kind of strange because at this point in the recovery, you got people feeling all kinds of ways about masks. The CDC also updating their guidance, of course. But where do you put us in that, moving forward beyond maybe this pandemic?

KRISTEN CHOI: Good morning. Thank you for having me on. You know, I think Dr. Fauci is absolutely right. I think that we've all seen a lot of benefits wearing masks, especially during the winter, when we know that there are a lot of viruses floating around. I think it's very possible that we may want to continue wearing masks seasonally. I've also heard people talking about potentially more acceptance of masks in healthcare. Maybe when we go to the doctor, and maybe that we want to wear a mask to protect ourselves from those viruses.

Initially, there was quite a lot of stigma in the US about wearing masks. That was something that was really hard to roll out initially. But we've seen that change dramatically, at least in some places. And there is more acceptance and recognition that wearing a mask can really help protect us from getting sick.

AKIKO FUJITA: Having said that, I have to tell you, I was out running this weekend. And more than half of the people, at least here in New York City, were not wearing masks. It feels like people are feeling a little more comfortable outdoors largely because of the CDC guidelines to-- the assumption here being that a lot of these people have already been vaccinated. How should we be thinking about that piece, especially those who have already gotten both of their doses, or in the case of Johnson & Johnson, one dose?

KRISTEN CHOI: Sure, so, you know, we know that the vaccines are very safe and very effective. And that includes in indoor and outdoor spaces. The CDC has now recommended that for people who are fully vaccinated, it's safe to be outdoors without a mask, and it's also safe to be indoors without a mask, again with the caveat that you are fully vaccinated. And that means that for all of the vaccines, that you've waited about two weeks after your last dose, or in the case of Johnson, your first dose, for that full immunity to kick in. But certainly, we know that outdoor transmission has been fairly low all along. And it's a great way for, I think, all of us to take steps towards reopening here.

ZACK GUZMAN: And when we talk about the stalled progress in terms of vaccination rates coming down a bit from where they were before, I mean, what are you seeing on the front lines there when it comes to maybe changing perceptions? Because obviously, earlier on, there were a lot of questions around side effects or symptoms of the vaccine. But now, as much as we know about it, curious to get your reaction to maybe a slowing of the pace of this now.

KRISTEN CHOI: Yeah, the drop-off in vaccine demand has been quite dramatic. I'm a nurse, and I helped give vaccines in Los Angeles. And, you know, at the peak of vaccination, the site where I work, we were giving several thousand a day. I was just there this weekend, and we gave less than 100. So we've seen a dramatic drop-off in demand for the vaccine. I think that we have opportunity to start reaching out now to some of those groups that are harder to reach. We've sort of gotten all the low hanging fruit, all the people who knew they wanted the vaccine. And now the hard part starts. And that's reaching out to people who may not be sure.

I think we do have opportunity coming up with kids. We expect that the FDA may be authorizing the Pfizer vaccine for kids as young as 12. And that would be a huge help to be able to start getting the vaccines out to teens. But in the meantime, we've seen a shift. The supply-demand shift has happened. And we need to start thinking about reaching out to those people who may have hesitancy and concerns.

AKIKO FUJITA: Kristen Choi, UCLA School of Nursing Assistant Professor, it's good to talk to you today.