Experts say to wear masks and social distance despite vaccine rollout

ORLANDO, Fla. — According to state records, Florida has now administered more than 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

However, some experts said it’s doing little right now to slow community spread, and people can’t just ditch their masks and start gathering again anytime soon. Cases are still spreading widely among people “not getting vaccinated.”

Read: Florida leads the nation in reported cases of COVID-19 variant, CDC says

In the past week, more than 320 people in Central Florida alone have died of COVID-19 complications. It’s part of a larger upward trend of reported deaths.

Awilda Collins recently lost her mother, who was in a nursing home, to COVID-19 and said she is worried many people no longer care about taking precautions because states have begun rolling out the vaccines.

Experts, such as epidemiologist Jason Salemi, share the same concern. Salemi said “That’s one of my biggest fears.”

Read: Florida reports 8,000 new COVID-19 cases, 142 virus-related deaths

Salemi stresses how important it is for all, vaccinated or not, to continue to wear masks and maintain social distance because of “who Governor Ron DeSantis chose to vaccinate first.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggested front-line health care workers be vaccinated first. Secondly, residents and staff of nursing homes and assisted living facilities and then people 75 years and older. This followed by people 65 years and older and other essential workers.

Gov. Ron DeSantis decided to vaccinate all seniors before essential workers.

Read: Here’s where to find the COVID-19 vaccine in your county

“We have chosen to choose a vaccination strategy that minimizes death instead of minimizing community spread,” Salemi said, “I would still expect because the overwhelming majority of cases still occur in people under 65 years of age that community transmission, if we don’t engage in mitigation efforts, is still going to stay high.”

Salemi also points out we haven’t vaccinated as many seniors as you might think.

“We’re 1 in every 7people who are 65 and older. That’s about 14% of that population, and most of the people who have gotten a shot have only gotten one shot,” he said.

Read: Despite limited supply, TSA urging workers to get COVID vaccines

Only after your second shot will you be 95% immune to the virus. Experts said that means you won’t get sick if you’re infected, but you might still be able to pass it on to others.

Until the nation reaches herd immunity, even with vaccine distribution underway, everyone must continue to wear masks and social distance.

“That’s the only way that we can truly minimize the number of deaths,” Salemi said.