Some ask, ‘are masks working?’ as COVID test positivity rate skyrockets

Coronavirus

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — We are on day 11 of the reinforced mask mandate, but according to the White House, Nevada continues to be a hot spot for COVID-19.

For most of this pandemic, we were told masks are the only barrier between us and the virus. Yet now, as we inch closer to two weeks since the mandate kicked in, numbers seem to vary when it comes to fighting the pandemic together.

While it seems like a never-ending battle with COVID, health officials, like Dr. Cortland Lohff, chief medical officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, say masks on top of getting vaccinated will be our key to relief.

“Masks can be very effective when it comes to transmission of the virus,” Lohff told 8 News Now. “When we have these large gatherings where folks go unmasked, those are ripe opportunities for the virus to be transmitted to other people.”

According to Nevada Health Response, the Silver State now has the second-slowest growth of COVID cases in the nation within the last two weeks. We were also the first state to reinstate an indoor mask requirement.

But the test positivity rate continues to climb.

As of Tuesday, the state had a 16.3% test positivity rate, not changing from Monday. A month ago, however, our test positivity rate was around 8.7% without the mask mandate.

“Almost all of our cases are due to the delta variant,” Lohff explained, “and it’s just a much more highly transmissible virus, which is why we are seeing more and more cases here.”

So, it’s not that the masks aren’t working, it’s that the delta variant is very strong.

Some residents 8 News Now spoke with say they aren’t giving up masks anytime soon, with or without a mandate.

“I feel safer that the mask mandate is back, but I am depressed that people aren’t abiding by it,” expressed Victor Padron.

Scott Zhu said, “Sometimes, we will cough or something, and if we wear it, we can protect the other ones.”

Others aren’t sure masks are the right approach.

“I don’t know if I necessarily feel safer, but I will do it out of respect for everyone else,” said Taylor Prescott. “I don’t think it hurts.”

Lohff tells us it is too soon to determine when the mask mandates could be lifted. But if you happen to walk into a workplace where the mandate is not being implemented, you can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration here.

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

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