COVID-19 New Mask Guidance and Loosening of Restrictions

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MIAMI, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 01: A sign reading, ‘masks required in this area,’ is seen as travelers prepare to check-in for their Delta Airlines flight at the Miami International Airport on February 01, 2021 in Miami, Florida. An executive order signed by U.S. President Joe Biden last week mandates mask-wearing on federal property and on public transportation as part of his plan to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Esha Brar

              The CDC has released a new statement regarding mask restrictions, which is that people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to wear masks, or practice social distancing both indoors or outdoors, except under certain circumstances. This statement was made by CDC director Dr. Anthony Fauci, as well as Dr. Rochelle Walensky. This comes as very shocking, but very exciting nonetheless. This is based on numerous studies saying that the vaccine was effective. One such study, such as the Israeli study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that the vaccine was 97% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 and 86% effective against asymptomatic infection in over 5,000 health care workers. Today, there are more than 117 million people in the United States who are fully vaccinated. However, this statement presents some dangers, such as the risk of unvaccinated individuals gathering even though they are not fully vaccinated. This is because of the fact that after all, there is no “sticker” on an individual proving whether they are actually vaccinated or not. 

             People who are considered to be fully vaccinated are those who have received the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna). The CDC is now stating that indoor and outdoor activities pose a minimal risk to fully vaccinated people and that fully vaccinated people have a reduced risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to unvaccinated people. This is certainly encouraging to those who are vaccinated, and to promote the continuation of vaccination to others.  

             However, the question as to whether mask-wearing is necessary is still heavily debated, especially when 57% of US adults have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and roughly 43% are fully vaccinated and natural infections have created immunity. This statement once again, as stated by directors, should be taken with caution, simply because of the fact that viral transmission is still high in about 35% of the counties in this country, home to 42% of the population. Moreover, vaccines do not offer 100% of protection against the virus. 

            Another problem with this loose guidance is that most settings do not require proof of vaccination, and so until enough systems are in place to identify those with immunity, and until the rest of the country has been vaccinated, the CDC will continue to recommend masking in indoor places. 

          Another factor to be taken into consideration is the presence of variants, and whether vaccines will actually be able to provide immunity against these new strains. Nonetheless, the important factor here is that the possibility of contracting and spreading the virus has significantly reduced and that the virus is starting to finally die down. Today, there are numerous initiatives to encourage individuals to get the vaccine, such as efforts by Krispy Kreme, giving free donuts to those bringing in their vaccination card. Also, recently, Biden announced that Uber will be launching an initiative where they will be giving free rides to vaccination. The journey to vaccinating the country continues on!