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Fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear face masks indoors (in most cases), CDC says in new update

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has faced criticisms for being slow over mask mandates. So it issued a new one

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A pedestrian and his dog walk past the Stockist store in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 11, 2021.

A pedestrian and his dog walk past The Stockist in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 11, 2021. Stockist owner Helen Wade chose to close the store for the remainder of the day after a person threatened to come back with a gun when asked to leave for not wearing a mask.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new guidance Thursday that will allow fully vaccinated people to interact indoors without wearing a mask or distancing in most instances, according to The Associated Press.

“If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky will say at a White House press briefing, per Axios.

Of course, people will need to follow any local or business mandates that call for masks indoors. But the decision — based on a growing body of evidence about the low transmission rates between vaccinated people — paves the way for a reopening of society.

What the new face mask guidance says

  • The CDC will also stop recommending fully vaccinated people wear masks in crowds outdoors, per The Associated Press.
  • The CDC guidelines also suggest fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors in most cases.
  • However, the new CDC guidance will reportedly still “call for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but could ease restrictions for reopening workplaces and schools,” per The Associated Press.

The decision to release new guidance comes as the CDC has faced criticism about its guidances.

Why CDC has been criticized over guidance

Specifically, the CDC has been called out for acting too much like a sloth when it comes to lifting mask mandates and offering vaccinated Americans more options for what they can do.

Health officials and lawmakers criticized the CDC over its updated guidance on face masks from late April. In the guidance, the CDC said people who are fully vaccinated can spend time outside without masks — which was something that many people were already doing because there’s been scarce data about the outdoor transmission.

More recently, the CDC faced criticism because of a The New York Times piece that revealed how the CDC’s data on the risk of getting COVID-19 outside was misleading. The data from the CDC suggests the risk of getting COVID-19 outdoors is less than 10%. According to The New York Times, that’s like saying “that sharks attack fewer than 20,000 swimmers a year. (The actual worldwide number is around 150.) It’s both true and deceiving.”

“This isn’t just a gotcha math issue. It is an example of how the CDC is struggling to communicate effectively, and leaving many people confused about what’s truly risky,” according to The New York Times.

So, why is this the case? A federal official recently told CNN that the slow approach from the CDC comes from the CDC’s intention of being a little more conservative.

“The CDC tends to be conservative in its approach, and that sometimes results, I think, in people seeing CDC guidance as just not being practical,” the federal official told CNN.

Of course, the CDC understands this. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a Senate hearing Tuesday that the agency is always reviewing the data on COVID-19 and will update accordingly.

“We are changing our guidance as the science evolves and as the science emerges, and we have to remain humbled to that science,” Walensky said, according to CNBC.

Walensky also told CNN that the CDC is waiting on a little bit more data before determining what the future of masks look like when it comes to indoor spaces.

“With those variants here, we do want to make sure that those data are going to be out and demonstrate that our vaccines will work,” she said, according to CNN.