CDC mask guidance opens doors for the vaccinated, but a long road is ahead for those who are not, experts say

For Americans vaccinated against Covid-19, daily life may look increasingly different than for those who aren't inoculated yet following Thursday's mask guidance, experts said.

Posted: May 14, 2021 1:33 PM

(CNN) -- For Americans vaccinated against Covid-19, daily life may look increasingly different than for those who aren't inoculated yet following Thursday's mask guidance, experts said.

"We are on the right path (for) people who are fully immunized," National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins told CNN. "You can take your mask off indoors as well as outdoors."

But he added: "We are not at the end of this story. There are still a lot of people who haven't gotten that shot."

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 -- meaning those who have waited two weeks after their final dose -- generally don't need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors.

The CDC arrived at its new guidance because of declining case rates, increasing numbers of vaccinations and growing understanding of the risk of viral spread by vaccinated people, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CBS on Friday.

"In the last two weeks, our cases have come down by a third," she said. "We have a rapidly declining case right probably because our vaccination rate is going up.

"Over the last several weeks, we have seen emerging signs that if you were vaccinated, you're safe and protected from getting Covid-19 and you really have a very low risk of transmitting to other people and that these vaccines are really working against the variants that we have circulating here in the United States," she said.

For those who experienced no immediate impact from receiving their vaccine, "now your life is going to change," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, adding that although some businesses, like airlines, may keep mask mandates in place, venues like grocery stores, restaurants, bars and bowling alleys may soon look much more like they did pre-pandemic.

The CDC's decision may have the indirect effect of being an incentive for people who are on the fence about getting the vaccine, but it was based on the science showing how strong vaccine protection is, Fauci said.

But as a sense of normalcy resumes for those who are protected, experts warn that the risk of infection may grow for those who are not vaccinated.

"We keep thinking of this country as a vaccinated and an unvaccinated country," CNN medical analyst Sanjay Gupta said. "What it's slowly going to turn into is a vaccinated and an infected country."

And without a way to verify who is vaccinated and who is not, the guidance may inhibit the US from reaching herd immunity and put those who cannot yet be vaccinated or are immuno-compromised in more danger, said CNN medical analyst Leana Wen.

"They were overly cautious and now I think they are throwing caution to the wind," Wen said of the CDC's guidelines.

People should defer to local rules on mask-wearing, Walensky told NBC on Friday.

"We really do need to understand that this country is not uniform. There are places in this country that still have higher rates of disease. There are places in this country that still have lower rates of vaccination," she said.

"People need to look into their local environment because, ultimately, we know that this virus is an opportunist, and where there are low rates of vaccination, it will emerge again," Walensky said. "We really need to make sure that we get people vaccinated, and we still continue to take precautions if people are not vaccinated."

Masks may stay on for some
Those who are not vaccinated are threatening their own health if they go out in public and forego the social-distancing and mask usage guidance, experts said.

And people who have compromised immune systems from situations like chemotherapy and organ transplants may not have a sufficient immune response to safely remove their masks in public, Wen said.

Although studies are ongoing for younger children, vaccines have only been approved for children as young as 12. So, those who are not yet old enough to get their doses still need to wear their masks indoors and around others, Fauci said.

Elementary age children likely won't be vaccinated until the end of the year, Fauci told MSNBC on Friday.

"They're called age de-escalation studies, and that is you get children at different age brackets, and you do a test to make sure that it's safe," he said. "You go from age 12 to 9. if it looks good, then you go 9 to 6; that looks good, 6 to 2; that looks good, and then 6 months to 2 years."

That timeline likely puts the youngest children at the back of the line, Fauci said.

"I think that high school kids, adolescents certainly, will be able to be vaccinated by the time we get to the fall year, but I think it's going to take to the end of the calendar year to get elementary."

US retailers may still require patrons be masked, and the CDC still advises wearing one when traveling or using public transport, Walensky noted.

The choice to remove masks is a decision vaccinated people can make for themselves, and some may choose not to, Fauci said.

"There's absolutely nothing wrong with an individual who has a certain level of risk aversion, as we know the risk is extremely low of getting infected whether you're indoors or outdoors," Fauci said. "But there are those people who don't want to take that bit of a risk, and there's nothing wrong with that, and they shouldn't be criticized."

Some states jump on the changes, others hold back
How the recommendations play out may depend on how state leaders respond -- and their reactions have been varied.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Friday the state will lift its mask requirement for fully vaccinated people effective Saturday at 9 a.m., according to a statement released by her office.

"The vast majority of us have trusted the scientists and experts to keep us safe during the pandemic, and it has worked. With millions of Michiganders fully vaccinated, we can now safely and confidently take the next step to get back to normal," Whitmer said.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Friday that capacity restrictions and face mask mandates will end June 11 and "life will be almost fully back to normal."

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey called the latest guidance "common sense" and said the state has "already embraced this idea," in a statement to CNN. Alabama dropped the state's mask mandate in April.

"Alabamians are getting back to living. So, Alabama, roll up your sleeves and get the vaccine!" Ivey said.

New York, Colorado and North Carolina officials will review the guidance before making any changes.

Los Angeles County has decided against following the new relaxed measures for now.

While vaccinated people don't need to wear a mask in the company of other vaccinated people in uncrowded areas, everybody is still required to wear face coverings in crowded indoor and outdoor venues, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday during a news conference.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Terre Haute
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 69°
Robinson
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 67°
Indianapolis
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 67°
Rockville
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 69°
Casey
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 70°
Brazil
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 69°
Marshall
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 69°
Nice Days Ahead
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1387679

Reported Deaths: 25490
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook55590210427
DuPage923181318
Will768831028
Lake683111011
Kane59389804
Winnebago34064501
Madison30904526
McHenry29175294
St. Clair28271519
Peoria23440339
Champaign21090153
Sangamon19073237
McLean18544187
Tazewell17213304
Rock Island15238328
Kankakee14533216
Kendall1327598
LaSalle12767249
Macon10991211
DeKalb10101121
Vermilion9993141
Adams8659126
Williamson7570134
Whiteside7196174
Boone682977
Ogle620583
Grundy598678
Clinton578791
Coles5763100
Knox5640153
Jackson509865
Henry507370
Livingston489691
Woodford481982
Stephenson481585
Macoupin478288
Effingham476472
Franklin454778
Marion4512117
Jefferson4417122
Monroe438094
Lee419453
Randolph416187
Fulton405159
Logan396063
Morgan393082
Christian383675
Montgomery379074
Bureau378383
Fayette322055
Perry319960
Iroquois313167
McDonough290151
Jersey271652
Douglas260536
Saline260157
Lawrence241127
Shelby232337
Union227140
Crawford214526
Bond208824
Cass203027
Ford188348
Warren183748
Clark183633
Jo Daviess182624
Pike181753
Wayne180753
Hancock180131
Carroll178037
Richland176940
Edgar176440
White170226
Washington164825
Moultrie162928
De Witt157129
Mason154145
Piatt152314
Clay149543
Mercer149334
Johnson147316
Greene145334
Massac135840
Wabash135512
Cumberland130019
Menard124812
Jasper116118
Marshall108219
Hamilton84215
Schuyler7797
Brown7276
Pulaski6997
Stark64824
Edwards57612
Henderson53014
Calhoun5292
Scott4881
Putnam4863
Alexander47311
Gallatin4684
Hardin39112
Pope3274
Out of IL50
Unassigned02420

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 749532

Reported Deaths: 13746
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1030911775
Lake554681006
Allen41636691
St. Joseph36947564
Hamilton36527416
Elkhart29363459
Tippecanoe22862225
Vanderburgh22542400
Porter19331325
Johnson18405388
Hendricks17588317
Clark13200193
Madison13120344
Vigo12604253
LaPorte12394221
Monroe12163175
Delaware10947198
Howard10263225
Kosciusko9614119
Hancock8549144
Bartholomew8162157
Warrick7854156
Floyd7772180
Grant7229179
Wayne7155201
Boone6917103
Morgan6736141
Dubois6211118
Marshall6206116
Cass5991108
Henry5894108
Dearborn588978
Noble580186
Jackson508674
Shelby500897
Lawrence4732121
Gibson444093
Harrison440773
Clinton440055
DeKalb438785
Montgomery434690
Whitley406042
Huntington402281
Steuben399259
Miami392768
Jasper386954
Knox375790
Putnam372160
Wabash360583
Ripley346570
Adams344955
Jefferson335685
White330253
Daviess3031100
Wells295181
Decatur289992
Greene286385
Fayette284864
Posey273735
LaGrange272872
Scott269955
Clay265848
Washington244934
Randolph244683
Jennings235149
Spencer234231
Starke227558
Fountain218647
Sullivan213943
Owen211058
Fulton201542
Jay200932
Carroll193420
Orange188055
Perry186937
Rush175726
Vermillion173644
Franklin170235
Tipton165846
Parke149016
Pike138034
Blackford136132
Pulaski120247
Newton112736
Brown103943
Crawford102316
Benton101014
Martin91515
Warren83615
Switzerland8098
Union72810
Ohio57811
Unassigned0420