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Hello Idaho: Stop wearing masks when you feel ready, Idaho doctor says

While the new mask guidance from the CDC is an indication that the world is returning to some kind of normalcy, the sudden change can cause anxiety for some people.

BOISE, Idaho — After more than a year of masking up and social distancing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that vaccinated individuals do not have to wear a mask in most indoor and outdoor settings. 

While the news is an indication that the world is returning to some kind of normalcy, the sudden change can cause anxiety for some people.

"In the past year to 14 months, we've been looking for things that reassure ourselves that we're doing all the right things to stay healthy," said Dr. Dennis Woody of Optum Idaho. "As we've acclimated to wearing these masks, now it's time to perhaps take them off and that's going to happen for people at different timelines. Anxiety is part of the transition, just like when we were deciding we needed to wear them."

When the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, Idahoans were forced to adjust to the "new normal," which included wearing masks in most indoor and outdoor settings. After months of adjusting to the "new normal," going back to the old normal can be just as difficult.

"I think part of it has to do with the uncertainty; Is the mask going to work? Is it going to be sufficient? Perhaps you didn't contract COVID-19, so maybe [masks] did work and so you were re-enforced for wearing it," Woody said. "Now we're in a situation where some people are refusing to be vaccinated so you don't know whether they are still carriers or could be carriers, and so that transition back to normal is a tough one."

Woody feels the best thing to do for yourself is to get vaccinated as well as ensuring you understand your own comfort level. He said experiencing activities without a mask can act as a "desensitization" and can aid in the adjustment.

"I really do think that if you maintain a fairly positive attitude and try to look at it from the perspective that you can control your anxiousness," Woody said. "If you decide that you want to wear a mask to reduce your anxiety, it's perfectly appropriate to do that."

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