LOS ANGELES -- If you've never contracted COVID-19, what are the chances that things will stay that way given that many people have stopped wearing masks? Is it inevitable that everyone will get infected at some point?
Maya Shabtai, a college student, said she got COVID in December. She's one of the 43% of Americans that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates contracted the virus. That leaves roughly 57% of people who've never had it.
Adam Leisure of Los Angeles would like to keep it that way.
"What I'll do is still wear a mask myself. I still get anxiety when I'm around a group of people I don't know," he said.
Now that mask restrictions are easing, Leisure wonders what the chances are of him contracting coronavirus now.
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"The risk of getting COVID really is highly dependent upon the amount of COVID that's around you," said Dr. Michael Ben-Aderet, Associate Medical Director of Hospital Epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai.
He said the data shows the odds of encountering someone with COVID in L.A. County is pretty low.
"Once we see that risk going down, that's when our public health agencies make decisions about loosening things like masking and distancing," he said.
But individual risk varies based on our immune system, vaccinations and behaviors, such as wearing a face covering.
"I think masking is still a really good idea," said Ben-Aderet. "If somebody around you has COVID and they're masked and you're masked, your risk of getting exposed to COVID is significantly less."
Some are happy to do away with the face coverings.
"I don't really like to wear a mask anymore," said Los Angeles resident John Wheeler. "I'm at a point where I've gotten three vaccinations."
"I get that we can't live like this for the rest of our lives. So I understand we're going to have to shift away from masks," said Shabtai.
We'll probably have to learn to live with COVID, but experts say that doesn't mean getting infected is inevitable.
"We shouldn't be casual about the idea of getting COVID-19," Ben-Aderet said. "We still are seeing hospitalized patients with COVID-19. We're still seeing patients pass away from this disease. So really preventing infection is still crucial even as the case numbers come down."
Enjoy the new freedom, but keep an eye on the transmission level in your community.