The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave updated guidance Thursday that people who are fully vaccinated (two weeks past the last vaccine dose) do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors, except in homeless shelters, health care settings and correctional facilities.
Social distancing is also not required for fully vaccinated people, the agency said.
“The science is clear: if you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic,” the CDC said.
Several states have lifted statewide mask orders as the majority of their residents are vaccinated, and some have complained that CDC guidance was lagging behind the conditions.
CDC plays catch-up
Studies of vaccinated people have shown that the vaccines have been more than 90% effective in preventing coronavirus infection and that vaccinated people are not spreading the virus. In addition, more than 99% of deaths are being prevented with the vaccines, and hospitalizations with severe disease are also very minimal.
It seems as though the CDC has not wanted to remove the mask requirement for the vaccinated because it could lead to ambiguity if some people have to wear masks and others don’t.
Finally, though, they had to acknowledge the science and admit there is no good reason to wear masks when the chance of hospitalization and death is so low.
For the vaccinated, COVID-19 is no more than a cold or flu, which in rare cases causes more serious problems but for the vast majority passes after a few days or a week.
Why the change?
The change in guidance may be a response to some prominent conservatives and health experts, who have said that the CDC and the Biden administration are disincentivizing vaccination if there are no big benefits to it, like ditching masks.
As vaccination rates are slowing and younger age groups display continued hesitancy, the CDC, likely influenced by the Biden administration, may have decided it was a good time to give people a good reason to go under the needle.
Biden has been the object of some ridicule for continuing to wear his mask even outdoors to try to be an example of responsibility to the American people. He also seems inconsistent when he frequently forgets to put the mask back on after speaking.
It has now been three weeks since all adults became eligible to receive the vaccine, and more than half of adult Americans have had at least one dose of the vaccine. This week, 12 to 15-year-olds also became eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine, which means millions more could be added to the ranks of the vaccinated over the next few months.