CDC updates mask advice

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Photo courtesy of WHYY.org

President Joe Biden speaks about CDC mask guidance in May.

Ally McVey, Staff Writer

On May 16 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance regarding mask-wearing for those fully vaccinated. These new guidelines were shockingly relaxed compared to the CDC’s earlier recommendations, and swiftly sent shockwaves through the country.

“Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance,” the website at CDC.gov reads.
Americans responded to the new guidance in a variety of ways. Some who were fully vaccinated looked forward to reaping the benefits of their newfound immunity, while others still felt hesitant to remove their masks.

Those who are still unvaccinated are expected to continue practicing mitigation efforts, but experts fear these individuals might jump at the chance to dispose of their masks, regardless of their own safety or the safety of others.

“What the CDC is betting on is that people care about their own health and they’re going to be nervous about living in a maskless world if they aren’t vaccinated,” said Katherine Milkman of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School to NPR. “The risk of loosening mask guidelines, of course, is that unvaccinated people will no longer feel compelled to wear masks at all.”

The new guidance from the CDC comes as the number of vaccines administered continues to rise in several states, but the rate of this increase has declined steadily.

“Demand for vaccines has dropped off markedly nationwide, with some states leaving more than half their vaccine doses unordered,” an Associated Press article reads. “The U.S. is currently administering first doses at a rate of about 965,000 per day — half the rate of three weeks ago.”

Even though vaccination rates have somewhat plateaued nationally and locally, the effects of the vaccines are taking hold, as new COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths fall. However, the most questionable aspect of the CDC’s new mask and distancing guidelines stems from pervasive vaccine hesitancy in the United States.

Many Americans have chosen to forgo vaccination for various reasons. This is the largest obstacle to a mask-free society, in that they can still contract and transmit COVID-19 to others who are not vaccinated — allowing the virus to continue to circulate and give rise to new variants.

“A growing body of evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to be infected without showing symptoms…and potentially less likely to spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others,” the website at CDC.gov reads.

It is safe to assume that most Americans do not enjoy wearing masks; whether shopping in a local store, exercising outdoors, or gathering with friends and family, masks can be a nuisance. However, to finally bid farewell to face coverings once and for all, Americans must get vaccinated, and do so rapidly.