Temple University expert responds to CDC lifting mask mandate for those fully vaccinated

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Thursday, May 13, 2021
CDC: Fully vaccinated people can ditch masks indoors - most of the time
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In a striking move to send the country back toward pre-pandemic life, the CDC will ease indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that fully vaccinated Americans can essentially return to life as normal without masks or social distancing, in most cases.

That means that people two weeks out from their second Moderna or Pfizer shot, or from their only Johnson and Johnson shot, do not have to wear a covering in a majority of settings.

The CDC says after reviewing data from the last few weeks, they determined it's very unlikely inoculated people will transmit coronavirus or contract a severe case.

The agency now says you don't have to wear a mask inside or outside or practice social distancing if you are fully vaccinated.

RELATED: CDC says fully vaccinated people can ditch masks indoors - most of the time

"If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stop doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment," said CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

The new guidance will still call for masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes and hospitals.

A local expert weighed in on the new CDC guidelines.

"From a scientific point of view, it is very nice to see that people who thought a lot about this, have come up with some lightening of the requirements for masking and distancing and that is super encouraging," said Dr. Thomas Fekete with Temple University's Lewis Katz School of Medicine.

Dr. Fekete says there is stills some work to do.

"Don't assume we are done. I think we are on the road to being done but not done, done," said Dr. Fekete.

He says while there is reason to be excited, we should still use caution.

"I would tell people that are immunosuppressed, significantly at high risk, be very cautious and continue to wear the masks, even if they had the full vaccination," said Dr. Fekete.

The CDC warns these new guidelines are only for those who have been vaccinated, if you are not, you should still mask up.

"The science is also very clear about unvaccinated people: you remain at risk of mild or severe illness of death or spreading the disease to others," said Dr. Walensky.

Medical experts say this is a huge hurdle but say we still have some work to do with more people getting the vaccine.

"In this area, we are about 50 percent vaccinated which is good. It is good. It isn't great. I'd like to see us above 70 percent," said Dr. Fekete.

While states will still have the choice to implement their own guidelines - nearly half of all states still had some sort of state-wide mask mandate in place as of Thursday morning - the new guidance will have immediate implications for offices, schools and public-facing businesses.

At the same time, mask enforcement for non-vaccinated people will be challenging and is likely to re-up the discussion on vaccine passports, which some states have banned.

"With regard to what businesses, communities, schools we, of course, will be updating our guidance in many of these areas very shortly," Walensky said on Thursday but urged local public health departments to make the call in each community based on how many people are vaccinated and how many cases are in the area.