In a surprise move, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Thursday that it was changing its official guidance to reflect that fully vaccinated individuals against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks or adhere to social distancing protocols. According to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, fully vaccinated individuals can begin the return to normal life.
What Does This Mean for Vaccinated Americans?
Walensky was clear that the current science shows that it is safe for vaccinated people to participate in both indoor and outdoor activities of any size without wearing a mask. This also means that it is not necessary for fully vaccinated groups to physically distance regardless of if they are outside or indoors.Read More »
What Does This Mean for Businesses?
The question now arises about how individual businesses and corporations will react to this relaxation of guidelines. It did not take long for Kroger, Home Depot, and Starbucks to come out and say that they plan to keep their mask mandates in place for now.
Other corporations have already said that they are going to review their policies and release their specific guidance shortly. For example, Walgreens, Macy’s, and CVS all followed up the updated CDC guidance with assurances to review their specific mask mandates in stores.
Not everyone welcomed the updated CDC recommendations. Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, expressed that the new guidance was confusing. Perrone said that the guidance did not consider how so many people not wearing masks may affect essential workers who are forced to work with the public daily.
Other critics said that the guidance only created more ambiguity for retailers looking to protect their workers. Some experts are criticizing the new guidance for not offering alignment with various state and local rules regarding the usage of facial coverings. This puts the onus on retailers to either side with the CDC or chart their own course.
What Does This Means for the Individual States?
As with everything that has happened during the ongoing pandemic, the individual states will have the majority of the control over the rules in their jurisdiction. Some states reacted swiftly to the CDC announcement. For example, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz immediately said that he would rescind his state’s mask mandate. However, Walz did say that businesses will have the authority to keep mask mandates in place.
Likewise, the state of Nevada announced that the updated guidance was effective immediately. This means that Nevada’s casinos are now able to allow guests to visit without wearing masks.
In what has historically been one of the most restrictive states when it comes to COVID-19, the state of Washington also lifted its mask mandate. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee cleared the way for businesses to rescind these mandates in indoor settings should they choose to do so.
On the other side of the coin, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s office said that the indoor mask mandate will remain in effect for now.
New Age Group Eligible
The updated guidance by the CDC came just one day after the same organization recommended the use of the Pfizer vaccine in kids between the ages of 12 and 15. Previously, the vaccine was only available for Americans ages 16 and over. This recommendation opens up the vaccine to approximately 22 million more Americans.