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Experts are warning about the unintended consequences of the CDC mask guidance

How should businesses respond to the CDC's surprise announcement that fully vaccinated people can ditch the mask in most situations?

Posted: May 15, 2021 2:48 PM
Updated: May 17, 2021 3:15 AM


Communities across the US ushered in a quick return to normalcy over the weekend as the country responded to the latest mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency said Thursday fully vaccinated Americans don't need to wear masks or social distance indoors or outdoors, with some exceptions, triggering announcements nationwide from state leaders and businesses who lifted their mask requirements for people who've gotten their Covid-19 shots.

But with a big part of the country still unvaccinated, some experts say the move came too fast and has resulted in many more Americans now shedding their masks than the CDC recommended.

'I think the CDC meant to say something really good, which is these vaccines are really protective,' emergency physician and CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen told CNN on Sunday. 'The thing is though, there were unintended consequences of their actions.'

'We've seen governors and mayors and business owners drop mask mandates, and as a result of that we've now made life much less safe for people who are unvaccinated, for immuno-compromised individuals and for young children who cannot yet be vaccinated,' Wen added.

Emergency physician Dr. Megan Ranney also expressed concern over the weekend about the Americans who haven't yet gotten a shot because of challenges with access, and how they may be affected by local leaders and business leaders lifting mask requirements.

'I would urge businesses to keep those mask mandates in place as long as possible in their businesses to protect their workers,' she told CNN. 'It's particularly an equity issue. We know that Black and Brown folks across the United States who are most often our frontline employees with public facing jobs, are also those who have had the hardest time accessing the vaccines.'

More than 47% of the US population has gotten at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose and more than 37% is fully vaccinated, CDC data shows.

'Not everybody has to rip off their mask'

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CNN on Sunday the agency's new guidelines don't mean that every American who's been vaccinated should take their masks off.

For example, Walensky said immuno-compromised people and others at higher risk should consult with their physicians before deciding to stop wearing a mask.

'Not everybody has to rip off their mask because our guidance changed,' she said. 'If you are concerned, please do consult your physician before you take off your mask.'

Walensky also said different communities across the US have different vaccination rates and different Covid-19 case rates, and people should take that into account when deciding whether to mask up or not.

She added that the CDC is asking businesses to make sure they help their employees get vaccinated so that they are safe.

Over the weekend, the agency also said schools should continue masking and using other coronavirus prevention strategies for at least the rest of this school year. Those strategies will be needed because students -- the ones who are authorized to receive a shot -- won't be fully vaccinated by the end of the academic year, the CDC said.

The Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine last week to include people 12 to 15 years old. Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in the US.

Children who are not vaccinated against the virus will still need to wear masks in the classroom in the fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday.

'The unvaccinated group, or the elementary school children -- nothing has really changed for them,' Fauci said.

CDC got messaging wrong, expert says

There's a key part missing that could have helped make this guidance clearer for Americans and not led some communities to have to rely on the honor system, one expert said.

'The CDC has gotten the science right, but they've gotten the messaging wrong,' Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, told CNN on Sunday.

While those fully vaccinated are 'basically immune' to the virus, Reiner said, the question is how do communities keep others protected -- like children who aren't able to get the vaccine yet, or immuno-compromised Americans who may still be at risk.

'The way you would protect them, ideally, would be to know who's vaccinated and who's not vaccinated, and the unvaccinated folks would still be required to wear a mask. And this is where politics comes in,' Reiner said. 'If we had had a very simple electronic system from the beginning, basically you have a pass on your phone that turns green after you've been vaccinated, businesses and venues all over the country would be able to say, 'Good news, if you have a green pass you don't need to wear a mask.''

'We don't have that, so how do we go forward?'

The guidance issued last week, Walensky said, was just a first step to help local and state leaders make their own recommendations moving forward.

The agency is asking people to 'take their health into their own hands' and get vaccinated so they don't continue to be at risk, Walensky said in an interview on ABC's 'This Week.'

'For the unvaccinated, our policy has not changed,' she added. 'We were going to get to a place in this pandemic where vaccinated people were going to be able to take off their mask. We're lucky to be there with the science that we have, and now we have to take this foundational step that is completely based in science and understand what it means as we open the entire country.'

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 752108

Reported Deaths: 13816
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1033831790
Lake558431013
Allen41736693
St. Joseph37007565
Hamilton36617417
Elkhart29425461
Tippecanoe22938228
Vanderburgh22565400
Porter19369327
Johnson18486389
Hendricks17696317
Clark13233195
Madison13176344
Vigo12631253
LaPorte12429221
Monroe12226176
Delaware10970198
Howard10349224
Kosciusko9643121
Hancock8578147
Bartholomew8174157
Warrick7864156
Floyd7815180
Grant7248179
Wayne7164201
Boone6979103
Morgan6768141
Dubois6224118
Marshall6214116
Cass6024110
Henry5903110
Dearborn589878
Noble581688
Jackson509476
Shelby502396
Lawrence4753122
Gibson445595
Clinton443555
Harrison441775
DeKalb440385
Montgomery439890
Whitley406744
Huntington403381
Steuben400859
Miami395769
Jasper389155
Knox377691
Putnam373461
Wabash362383
Ripley347370
Adams345555
Jefferson336186
White332753
Daviess3035100
Wells295481
Decatur289892
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey274335
LaGrange273272
Scott270356
Clay267148
Washington246336
Randolph245183
Jennings235349
Spencer234531
Starke228159
Fountain222048
Sullivan214843
Owen212358
Fulton204043
Jay201032
Carroll193820
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion175344
Franklin170435
Tipton166646
Parke149616
Pike138334
Blackford136232
Pulaski120847
Newton114936
Brown104443
Benton102614
Crawford102516
Martin91815
Warren84115
Switzerland8158
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0424

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1109697

Reported Deaths: 20213
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1289521469
Cuyahoga1158802216
Hamilton814201251
Montgomery525861049
Summit484551006
Lucas43384824
Butler39098606
Stark33355930
Lorain25689506
Warren24612305
Mahoning22388602
Lake21219389
Clermont20138253
Delaware18892136
Licking16671225
Fairfield16589204
Trumbull16560483
Medina15618273
Greene15292248
Clark14244306
Wood13296200
Portage13254216
Allen11919239
Richland11611211
Miami10857225
Wayne9153225
Columbiana9039230
Muskingum8909135
Pickaway8664122
Tuscarawas8654251
Marion8649139
Erie8058165
Ashtabula7171179
Hancock6999133
Ross6948163
Geauga6850151
Scioto6540106
Belmont6159174
Union585049
Lawrence5741102
Jefferson5683159
Huron5554122
Sandusky5444126
Darke5420129
Seneca5350128
Washington5321109
Athens524460
Auglaize502487
Mercer487785
Shelby477095
Knox4573112
Madison444566
Ashland435997
Putnam4336104
Defiance432399
Fulton432274
Crawford4046110
Brown402761
Logan387678
Preble3859105
Clinton379266
Ottawa373581
Highland360266
Williams348578
Champaign344959
Guernsey325254
Jackson318454
Perry297350
Morrow291940
Fayette285750
Hardin275765
Henry273867
Holmes2703101
Coshocton269360
Van Wert247264
Adams243156
Pike242835
Gallia240850
Wyandot234756
Hocking220663
Carroll197548
Paulding176642
Meigs148540
Monroe136345
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan110124
Vinton85717
Unassigned03
Fort Wayne
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Angola
Partly Cloudy
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Huntington
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Decatur
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Van Wert
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Daily rounds of showers and thunderstorms will increase the flood threat across northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio.
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