‘Until we become immune, we’re not going to get past this’: Some express opposition with Pinellas Co. mask ordinance

Pinellas County

ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Mask ordinances are popping up across the Tampa Bay area but not everyone thinks it’s the right move.

Some people argue masking up delays the inevitable and that we need herd immunity now to naturally rid ourselves of the virus.

“Until we become immune, we’re not going to get past this. It’s going to come wave after wave and keep hitting us,” said Cathi Chamberlin.

Chamberlin is a political author and one of a couple of hundred people that wrote into and called commissioners asking them to vote “no” for the mandatory masks.

“I think it should be left up to the individual. If you don’t want to wear a mask. If you do and you’re afraid of others not wearing one….it’s a constitutional right, everyone should do their own research and figure out what’s best for themselves,” said Chamberlin.

She’s not alone, in the past week Pinellas County Commissioners received more than 1,000 opinions via e-mail, call and mail from residents passionate about wearing and not-wearing masks. Many residents cited needing herd immunity, so, News Channel 8’s Christine McLarty spoke with Infectious Disease Specialist Doctor Juan Dumois with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital to understand his thoughts on herd immunity.

Dr.Dumois said from a scientific standpoint, if we spread the virus quickly, we will reach herd immunity quicker. However, he said if we spread it too quickly before there’s a vaccine then the healthcare system will get overwhelmed and more people will die.

“Getting herd immunity faster is scientifically accurate but ethically dubious. Because it’s a callous way of accepting a lot more people are going to die,” Dumois said.

“You have to have lots of people in the herd with that immunity. You need more than 80% of the population to have the virus before it starts slowing that down. Right now we’re probably only at 5% at best,” said Dr.Dumois.

He said eventually one way or another our country will reach herd immunity but if we wait to slow the spread until there’s a vaccine then fewer people will die. “Make a large part of the herd immune by giving them a vaccine that avoids the infection but tricks the immune systems into creating that protection/immunity,” said Dr.Dumois.

Dr.Dumois said we may be able to get a vaccine as early as January 2021 if all the testing up to that point goes right. He said if we get the vaccine by then and if a lot of people take that vaccine, then he thinks we could safely reach herd immunity by the end of 2021.

Pinellas County announced they will open the County Information Center for questions about the emergency face-covering ordinance. Starting Friday, residents, and visitors with questions can call 727-464-4333 Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. until noon.

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