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Fully vaccinated? Don't throw out your masks just yet, says doctor

A discarded face mask lies in the street in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 17, 2021. Disposable masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment have safeguarded untold lives during the pandemic. They’re also creating a worldwide environmental problem, littering streets and sending an influx of harmful plastic into landfills and oceans. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

WASHINGTON (SBG) - America has reached 30 million COVID-19 cases according to recent data from Johns Hopkins University. But as deaths and hospitalizations appear to be on the decline, are we close to turning the corner on the pandemic?

“We cannot claim victory yet,” said Dr. Nina Radcliff to The National Desk’s Jan Jeffcoat. “The coming weeks are especially critical, and getting lax with safety measures, America could see infection surge again.”

But Dr. Radcliff says there are signs of progress.

“Vaccinations are already making a difference. Right now approximately 87 million Americans have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr. Radcliff. “The former Director of the CDC says that has equated to saving at least 40,000 lives.”

CDC guidelines still require masks in public, but according to Dr. Radcliff, the best way to get back to a mask-free life is for everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Just because you've gotten vaccinated doesn't mean you should throw off your mask immediately. I wish it was, but it's not the case, it takes several weeks for the vaccine to kick in,” said Dr. Radcliff. “Tossing your mask out could actually put you and your unvaccinated friends and family at risk.”

According to the CDC, there’s not enough data to prove whether vaccinated people could carry the virus and infect others.

“We know that the COVID-19 vaccine is great at preventing serious illness and death, but we don't know if it's enough,” said Dr. Radcliff. “It's not 100%. So that's what we're protecting against, and that's why wearing a mask amongst people who have not been vaccinated, or who are at high risk is very important.”