RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Many have wondered what factors come into play when deciding whether to lift mask mandates. Some areas are dropping them while others think it’s still too early.

WakeMed Infection Prevention Specialist Jessica Dixon said it’s important to remember one thing: “Just because everybody else is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.”

She said two of the main factors that should influence mask mandates are test positivity rates and vaccination rates. Those vary widely across different locations.

“We’re still in the 20-some percent test positivity rate, which is extremely high,” she said. “If you
remember when we first started looking at relaxing all the things back a year or more ago, we were looking at a test positivity rate of less than 5 percent.”

Cases are coming down across the state, but Dixon put the numbers in context.

“Where we are now is worse than where we are at any of the other peaks,” she explained. “We are not in a place where we can go, ‘Oh my gosh, this is great. We’re past it.’ We’re not. It’s just our peak was so much higher this time that where we are now is still a bad place. It’s just not as bad as the one we were at a few weeks ago.”

She said some places that are easing restrictions have much lower positivity rates and higher vaccination rates. New York has a positivity rate below 5 percent.

“Denmark has 85 percent vaccine uptake — greater than 85 percent vaccine uptake — in their population, so even though there are breakthrough cases and people get sick, they are not seeing the impact on their health care system,” Dixon said.

North Carolina is seeing numbers of hospitalized patients start to decrease, but the state still reported nearly 4,000 COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

“We have very sick people. We have people dying every day of COVID in our hospitals,” Dixon said. “The heartbreak and emotion of that hasn’t changed. It’s not easier now than it was to see two years ago.”