Health experts stress importance of masks to prevent more COVID-19 mutations

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — As masks become our new normal again, for the time being, health experts say wearing them can have a big impact on whether we see more variants.

The new mask mandate requires face coverings for everyone in Clark County while indoors in public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. Local doctors say wearing one is extremely important right now, perhaps more than ever before.

They say the measure helps prevent more mutations of COVID-19 that could cause some major problems.

“By wearing masks, we’re going to prevent transmission of virus between people,” said Dr. Marc J. Kahn, dean of the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV.

Kahn says the more time a virus spends in a population, the more mutations, such as the highly transmissible Delta variant, are likely to arise.

But masks, even for fully vaccinated people, can help.

Dr. Marc J. Kahn, dean of the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV

“In order to get to the point where this virus is not as rampant in our community, we have to decrease the amount of virus around,” Kahn explained, “and that’s going to require all of us wearing masks.”

If not everyone follows the mask mandate, though, and if more people do not get vaccinated, Kahn is concerned about how effective our current vaccines will be.

“We worry that we could get mutations that are resistant to vaccines,” Kahn said.

So, how long until that point?

Dr. Manas Mandal with the College of Pharmacy at Roseman University of Health Sciences says some research suggests it could be relatively soon.

Dr. Manas Mandal, College of Pharmacy at Roseman University of Health Science

“There is a calculation that shows, that at the current rate, perhaps it’s three to six months,” Mandal revealed.

But there is some promising news.

“Pfizer and Moderna are already talking about conducting clinical research, coming up with a variant-specific vaccine formulation,” Mandal told 8 News Now.

To avoid this situation altogether, health experts say there are two simple steps you can take.

“It’s critically important to wear a mask,” Mandal stressed.

Kahn adds, “Get vaccinated to help others.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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