ESTERO, Fla. — Fox 4 reached out to the head of FGCU's Physician Assistant Program to get his take on the Governor's decision to cancel local mask mandates throughout Florida.
Below is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
WFTX: So, in light of this, is it a good idea to keep wearing masks and maintain social distancing?
BOB HAWKES/DIRECTOR OF FGCU PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT PROGRAM: As the governor has kind of relaxed the mask mandates, we've been seeing for the past several weeks, the numbers decrease. We have the death rate, which is very law from Covid 19. We have our positivity rate, which is still about 6%. But we've also reached almost 9,000,000 people who have received one dose of the vaccine. So, we're making really good progress. I think as we're approaching the summer and vacations, a lot of states are really starting to relax it. So, I think the information is really on our side now to say it's OK to start relaxing these mask mandates.
WFTX: Well, it is a good idea to keep wearing your mask and maintaining social distancing?
BOB HAWKES/DIRECTOR OF FGCU PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT PROGRAM: So certainly, if you're around large groups, large gatherings, especially people who have not been vaccinated, so then yes, it is still advised to wear your mask. If you're outside, if you're not gathering in large groups, or you're with people who've already been vaccinated, then it's safe to go without a mask.
WFTX: This might lead to some awkwardness for some people. Because so many things go through your mind, should I ask if this person's been vaccinated, or to put on a mask? What are your thoughts medically on some of these social interactions?
BOB HAWKES/DIRECTOR OF FGCU PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT PROGRAM: I think certainly it is what each individual is comfortable (with.) Someone may be very forthright, to say I've already received my vaccine, I'm not going to wear my mask. Are you OK with that? Other people are not going to wear their mask and go with the assumption that they have been vaccinated or choose not to wear it. It is going to be a kind of personal choice. But certainly, as we're starting to have fewer cases, we're going to see fewer people wear masks. AS things are starting to relax. We're going to see fewer people wear masks, as things are starting to open up more easily.
WFTX: Is there anything else you would recommend people keep in mind at this point in the pandemic?
ROBERT HAWKES/DIRECTOR OF FGCU PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT PROGRAM: I think the important thing to remember if you have not received a vaccine, it is important to do so. The supplies are readily available. There is information on a number of websites as to where you actually obtain your vaccine.
WFTX: Medically speaking, what would you say to someone hesitant to go in a store. Do you trust your instincts? Should they ask, should they look for a sign.
ROBERT HAWKES/DIRECTOR OF FGCU PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT PROGRAM: A lot of stores are removing those mandated mask signs Do what feels comfortable. If you're comfortable asking the store, are you OK if wear or don't wear a mask. Most stores are going to be fine. It's really going to be a personal choice.
WFTX: Is it a thing that - it's not going to hurt to wear the mask and you're social distancing?
ROBERT HAWKES/DIRECTOR OF FGUC PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT PROGRAM: There is clearly no negative side to wearing a mask. If people are comfortable wearing a mask, by all means, go ahead. Especially if you're in a large gathering or a confined space where it is possible to spread any of the viruses. But if people are outside, they're walking, they're exercising That's going to be generally safe not to wear a mask.