In the news that everyone has been waiting for since last year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on May 13 that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 should wear their masks both indoors as well as dropping outside and ending the social distancing good.
It was welcome news, especially as politicians and many in the public have criticized the CDC for being too slow to update its guidelines as more people in the US – over 35% to date – have received a full vaccination course . While initial research only showed that vaccination prevented COVID-19 disease, more recent data suggests vaccinated people are also protected from, and therefore are, protected from infection with SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 also are far less likely to spread it.
In a press conference, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky’s vaccination efforts, the real-world data showing the shots work, the number of cases falling in the U.S., and scientific evidence that the vaccines protect against worrying variants that have emerged in the world as reasons for updating the agency’s mask consultancy.
“When you are fully vaccinated you can start doing things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic,” she said. “We have all longed for that moment when we can return to a sense of normalcy. Based on the ongoing downward trend in cases, scientific data on the performance of our vaccines, and understanding of the spread of the virus, that moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated. “
However, there are still inconsistencies in the CDC guidelines that could lead to confusion in the days and weeks to come. For example, the CDC continues to require that passengers on planes, buses and trains wear masks regardless of their vaccination status. Confirming the break in the agency’s advice, Walensky said, “We will review all of our guides and update all of our guides – including travel – shortly as soon as we have these new guides out there.”
Walensky denied that the update should encourage more people to get vaccinated as rates have slowed in recent weeks. Instead, she said, it was based on “science.”
“Several things have happened in the past two weeks,” she added. “Cases have decreased by a third, and in the past two weeks there has been an increase in vaccines that are now available to people between the ages of 12 and 15. And we have seen the merging of more science that has emerged and improved [our understanding] for three reasons – one in relation to the effectiveness of the vaccines, two in relation to the effectiveness of the vaccines against the variants, and three in relation to the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing transmissibility. “
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical officer, noted at the briefing that people who are fully vaccinated and are still more comfortable in public settings should continue to wear masks.
“People have to make their own personal choice,” he said. “What Dr. Walensky described it was [new] Recommendation that is based on science and it’s just a recommendation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the person who has some risk aversion and does not want to take even the very small risk of infection if they are vaccinated and still wear a mask indoors or outdoors. There is nothing wrong with them and they shouldn’t be criticized. “