Coronavirus US

Coronavirus US: who has to wear a mask after the vaccine?

The CDC has issued a new set of guidelines for those who have received both shots of the Covid-19 vaccine but some states will maintain their mask mandates.

Coronavirus US: who has to wear a mask after the vaccine?
LUCY NICHOLSON REUTERS

Last weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided an update on their new guidelines for those who have received both shots of the Covid-19 vaccine. Those who are now fully vaccinated, they say, are now free to resume activities which they did before the pandemic.

Who is considered fully vaccinated?

It considers those who are fully vaccinated when two weeks have passed since an individual received the second dose in a two-dose series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or a fortnight after a single-dose jab of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

The CDC stated, “Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance”.

Activities can be resumed without the need to wear a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. You will still be required to follow guidance at your workplace and local businesses.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky explained on NBC’s Meet the Press programme yesterday, “Everybody, as we are working towards opening up again after 16 months getting out of this pandemic, will need to understand what they need to do locally. And this was not permission to shed masks for everybody everywhere. This was really science-driven individual assessment of your risk. Right now, the data, the science shows us that it’s safe for vaccinated people to take off their masks. I, as the CDC director, promised the American people I would convey that science to you as we know it. We are asking people to be honest with themselves. If they are vaccinated and they are not wearing a mask, they are safe. If they are not vaccinated and they are not wearing a mask, they are not safe".

Mask mandates and rules vary between states

However, the CDC’s new guidelines have caused some confusion as it will have no effect on local mask mandates and some states are advising their citizens to keep wearing masks until infection cases drop to manageable levels. Some states have said that they will end mask mandates, while others remain unchanged. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot hopes that fully vaccinated people in her city will continue to wear masks until the situation is under control. She told the Stephanie Ruhle Reports show on MSNBC, “I think we’ve got to get some clarification from the CDC,” Lightfoot said. “The rollout, obviously, the reporting has been a bit abrupt, and I think they have a lot of clarifications they need to do. I know for me personally, I’m going to continue to wear a mask in public, and I’m going to encourage others to do so. We’ve got to make sure that people are continuing to follow the public health guidance that has gotten us this far, and masks, I think, are a big and important part of that. To say, well, if you’re vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask, that’s great, but what about all of the other people out there that aren’t vaccinated, and there’s no way to know that? So, I think, for the time being, most people are going to continue to wear masks … outside of their homes, and I think that’s smart.”

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has also said that he will extend his mask mandate order into the near future. "We believe at this time the city of Jackson having an only 36% vaccination rate, that that is too low of a percentage to lift our mask mandate," he explained.

US states lifting mask rules for fully vaccinated

California, which to date has administered 35,114,882 doses (88,871 per 100,000) will be following the CDC’s mask guidelines starting from 15 June. Minnesota too has lifted a statewide requirement to wear face coverings. In an executive order, Governor Tim Walz urged Minnesotans "who have not been vaccinated to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces in accordance with CDC and Minnesota Department of Health (“MDH”) recommendations”.

Florida Mayor Daniella Levine Cava left it for the public to be sensible about the CDC recommendations. In an address, she said, “This is truly the day we have been waiting for and I feel more confident than ever that we are reaching the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. In an effort to continue our fight, to return back to our normal lives and in consultation with our chief medical officer Dr. Peter Paige and our panel of medical experts, I am no longer mandating, but still recommending that people wear a mask and social distance at Miami-Dade county facilities. Since we don’t know who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t, we urge you to practice common sense and continue following masking and other precautions if you have not been vaccinated”.

New York will ease its strict mask mandate for those who are fully vaccinated starting from Wednesday (19 May), Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced. "All the arrows are now pointed in the right direction, so let’s get back to life”.

Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Ohio, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Kentucky, Washington, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, North Carolina, Kansas, Colorado and Rhode Island announced plans to fall in line with the CDC guidance either immediately or in the coming weeks. Wisconsin, New Jersey, Hawaii and Massachusetts will maintain their mask rules for the time being.