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Will the new CDC guidelines increase spread of COVID-19?

A group of scientists said the new CDC guidelines will increase coronavirus spread

A woman walks with a mask outside of Trader Joe’s in Utah.
Susan Holding Rosetta leaves Trader Joe’s in Cottonwood Heights after shopping on Friday, May 14, 2021. Trader Joe’s is one of the first stores to drop the mask requirement for fully vaccinated customers.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that vaccinated people can take off their masks in indoor and outdoor settings as a sign that the COVID-19 pandemic is nearing its conclusion.

But a group of scientists said Thursday that the CDC’s decision may lead to even more COVID-19 cases.

Why would the CDC create more COVID-19 risk?

The Infectious Diseases Society of America agency said the CDC’s announcement on ditching masks was made without context and too quickly, according to CNBC. There were no guidelines for how states could implement the new guidance, either, the group said. So, this will only create confusion.

Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, who sits on the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, said the guidance makes sense for people outdoors, according to CNBC. Indoors, though, is a different story.

  • “Now the risk of COVID-19 spread is increased in crowded indoor spaces with unvaccinated people and especially with poor ventilation,” Duchin said, according to CNBC.
  • He said ending the indoor mask mandate “could lead to increased risk in public spaces and workplaces with preventable COVID-19 spread primarily among the unvaccinated.”

Are we misunderstanding the guidelines?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, recently told Axios that many Americans misinterpreted the guidelines.

  • “I think people are misinterpreting, thinking that this is a removal of a mask mandate for everyone. It’s not,” he told Axios. “It’s an assurance to those who are vaccinated that they can feel safe, be they outdoors or indoors.”
  • “It’s not their fault,” Fauci added. “People either read them quickly, or listen and hear half of it. They are feeling that we’re saying: ‘You don’t need the mask anymore.’ That’s not what the CDC said. They said: If you are vaccinated, you can feel safe — that you will not get infected either outdoors or indoors. It did not explicitly say that unvaccinated people should abandon their masks.”

So even though the CDC said it’s OK to ditch your mask, you might want to keep it on. In fact, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, told CNN that it’s OK to keep masks on, too.

  • “Not everybody has to rip off their mask because our guidance changed,” she said. “If you are concerned, please do consult your physician before you take off your mask.”