The end of masking

New CDC guidance: anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities – large or small – without wearing a mask or physical distancing.

Just to note that Dr. Walensky did make some caveats, as per that article:

I perhaps should have titled it the beginning of the end of masking.

Here’s a handy infographic by the CDC:

Here’s a more detailed treatment:

Fully vaccinated people can:
Resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance …

There’s more there. I look forward to checking back on this thread to learn about the science underlying these recommendations. I am particularly interested in the thinking about giving a green light to going to a movie theater, singing in an indoor chorus, and participating in an indoor huffing and puffing high intensity exercise class without a mask or social distancing. Also grocery stores, which I understand are safer than they look.

The critical part is this is only true for fully-vaccinated people.

How will this impact mask mandates in the states that still have them?

How many unvaccinated people will simply refuse to wear masks now? (“I’m vaccinated. Prove I’m not.”)

I’m not sure what to think about this.

The idea is that if you’re vaccinated, it doesn’t matter what other people do. It doesn’t matter if they’re vaccinated or not, it doesn’t matter if they mask or not. By virtue of being vaccinated yourself, you are protected.

At least, that’s what the CDC seems to be saying.

Right, it wouldn’t matter to my health in any immediate, direct sense. Won’t it matter, though, in regards to the spread of the virus and the rise of variants due to the unvaccinated folks who will use this as an excuse not to mask? I mean, I get that the CDC is saying I don’t need to worry about protecting myself with a mask, since I’m fully vaxxed. I’m wondering about the wider implications.

One thing that I’m inferring from the CDC guidance is that they are basing it on everyone following the guidance properly, including unvaccinated people wearing masks as appropriate. I’m not sure that they are really saying it’s safe for vaccinated people to be maskless in environments with maskless unvaccinated people. In the real world there are many people who will ignore the guidance, are anti-mask, will falsely claim to be vaccinated, or say they can’t wear masks because of health issues. So given that we can’t really trust that maskeless people in public are fully vaccinated, it’s probably still best to wear masks unless you are with a small group of trusted people.

We are both vaccinated, but we live in an extremely “red” county where it was reported just this morning that only 32% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated. That doesn’t make me feel safe, no matter what the CDC may think. I may go maskless if retail establishments allow it, but I’m still going to avoid close contact with people if at all possible.

As someone who is fully vaccinated in a top-3 vaccinated state, I think this is way premature. I think there should have been goals to meet, like you can reduce the mask mandate when your county is at x% vaccinated. Plus, as I just saw someone else point out, how many people are fully vaccinated? If states opened up to everyone 16+ just a month ago, there hadn’t been time for everyone to get a second dose of M and P and J&J was paused. Under 12s, while at the lowest risk of catching and spreading it, aren’t immune. I saw a very sad mother of a toddler being like “Hey what the fuck happens when we go to the grocery store?” You generally can’t leave under 12s alone and then only the oldest of them.

I think June-ish with a certain benchmark of positives, deaths, and vaccines would be a safer goal.

I know that if my unvaxed kid goes shopping with me we can still wear masks, but we’re SAFER when other people wear them too. (Kid will be half vaxed by this time tomorrow, so it’s moot for us but still won’t be full for 3 weeks after that).

And I absolutely do not trust people to adhere to masking if they’re not vaccinated. They weren’t consistent this past year, nor with staying distant.

Yup. I also think it’s worrying that they are publishing this advice before we get better data on how effective the existing vaccines are against the variants that are rampant in various parts of the world, and will inevitably spread sooner or later in the U.S. And before vaccine boosters that are effective against the variants are widely available.

I hope I am wrong but I think this is a disastrous miscalculation.

To be clear, the CDC thinks it’s perfectly acceptable for vaccinated people to wear masks. Dr. Fauci:

“For those who are more risk averse, you have a choice of continuing to wear it if you want to… There’s absolutely nothing wrong with an individual who has a certain level for risk aversion… They shouldn’t be criticized."

And here’s some scientific background from the same article:

Agency officials pointed to several recent studies showing that vaccines are more than 90 percent effective at preventing mild and severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 in real world settings.

Among them was a study of 6,710 health care workers in Israel, including 5,517 fully vaccinated workers, that found the Pfizer vaccine was 97 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infections among the fully vaccinated, and 86 percent effective at preventing asymptomatic infections among them. (Vaccination rates in Israel are far higher than in the United States, however.)

So far I opine that there’s scope for going a little slow. I adjusted my behaviors within an hour of hearing of the new CDC guidance. But I anticipate strapping a mask to my arm outdoors and putting it on when I go inside a store at least for a couple of weeks. I’ll update my behaviors as the science rolls in, other experts and officials offer their perspectives, and the CDC guidance is reviewed and vetted. They themselves note that it’s subject to change after all.

I think a lot of the idea is right now we’re hitting a plateau where we’re running out of people that want to be vaccinated. If we say you don’t have to wear a mask any more, that will encourage more people to do so.

I think this is great news. With the infections going down, I think this might help with some vaccine hesitation.

I’ve no doubt this is all going to end in tears and bedwetting.

OTOH, this makes sense in a cynical sort of way. The CDC and the fed government in general know that very soon nobody will bother to wear a mask anyway so they might as well get out in front of it and pre-pardon everyone.

I thought wearing masks was always about protecting others. How does not wearing a mask–even if you’re vaccinated–protect others?*

*who can not/will not be vaxxed

I’m totally with you on this. Nevada Casinos are opening up, India is like a festering sore, we are all doomed. 3rd, 4th, 5th waves are coming.

Waaaay to early, if you ask me, and By-Tor. Sorry about that whole Snow Dog thing. You seem reasonable.

I’ll tell you one thing: I’m a LOT more inclined to believe this than if it’d been said under, um, other management…

(Although that brings up an interesting point: if we assume Biden is hands off and letting scientists have the say, then if (another big assumption) the CDC is under outside pressure to get this over with, I wonder where it’s coming from…)

Vox has a decent article on the science behind the CDC’s guidance. Better than the NYT treatment, though I would have appreciated some dissenting views. Science starts 10 paragraphs down under the subtitle, “Yes, the Covid-19 vaccines are that amazing”. MfM Recommended article: “The CDC embraces the power of the vaccines”.

Those skeptical of the CDC’s new guidance can do a deep-dive into the science articles linked to in that piece.

Two days ago, Vox interviewed health experts taking a similar stance. But some are a little more cautious, because eg they have an unvaccinated 7 year old in their house. IOW, some are still wearing masks to protect others. Health experts: Vaccinated people can relax about their Covid-19 risk - Vox

I’ll go out on a limb and say the worst is behind us, at least in the developed world. Why? Because December and January were god-awful. But that’s hardly 100% reassuring and I am not a physician, epidemiologist, or medical expert.