What has the CDC Changed?
While we must continue to abide by our local mask and physical distancing requirements, new CDC guidance has rescinded many of the federal mask and social distancing restrictions we have relied on throughout most of this pandemic. Federal health officials now advise that, in most indoor and outdoor settings, individuals who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus do not have to wear masks or practice physical distancing regardless of size.
This guidance is a sharp departure from the advice we have received from federal health officials before now, but it does come with a few stipulations: Vaccinated individuals must still follow face covering and social distancing rules when in workplaces and local businesses; when traveling on trains, buses, planes, or other modes of public transportation, or while in airports, bus stations, or other transportation hubs; when visiting medical facilities and long-term care locations, such as hospitals and senior living communities; and when in congregate settings, like group homes, detention centers, and schools. Moreover, fully vaccinated international travelers coming into the U.S. are still required to undergo mandatory testing procedures.
Following the release of these new federal recommendations, many states have incorporated policy changes that lower mask and social distancing regulations for people who are fully vaccinated. On May 14, 2021, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam stated that Virginia would be lifting universal mask directives consistent with the CDC’s new guidelines. The Commonwealth of Virginia’s new local guidance will allow fully vaccinated individuals to stop wearing masks and social distancing in most indoor and outdoor settings, except where directed by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including workplace and local business guidance.
Should We Still Wear Face Masks and Socially Distance?
Now the question comes down to whether you agree or disagree with lifting mask and physical distancing restrictions? Currently, there are strong voices on both sides of this subject. The supporters argue that lifting these mandates are justified based on various favorable factors, including our expanded understanding of how the virus spreads, the increasing number of national inoculations, the scientific data underscoring the efficiency of covid vaccines, and the consistent decline in the overall number of covid cases and deaths. On the other side of this debate, critics contend that even though more people are receiving vaccinations, pandemic precautions, such as face masks and social distancing, are still fundamental steps everyone can take to continue to slow the spread of this virus. Some also maintain that a considerable number of covid cases and deaths remain worrisome. According to USA Facts, On May 17, 2021, the US recorded 29,379 new covid cases, 432 new covid deaths, and a fully vaccinated rate of only 38%. In Virginia, we saw 272 new covid cases, 11 new covid deaths, and a fully vaccinated rate of 41%.
As a personal decision, I will continue to wear my mask and socially distance as much as possible. Of course, I fully recognize the huge gains we have achieved in controlling the number of covid infections and fatalities; however, we still have a significant journey ahead of us before we can truly beat this pandemic, and I would hate for us to lose one single inch of forward progress by making decisions that benefit convenience over safety. There is still a lot we need to learn about the long-term efficacy of the vaccines and the effectiveness of the vaccines against the emerging variants to the virus. It is so important that we remain vigilant and avoid becoming complacent as we make our way to the finish line of this pandemic. Similarly, if you believe that you or a loved one may have contracted covid, please find a local covid testing site and schedule an appointment as soon as possible. In addition, as covid vaccines become more available to everyone, please consider vaccination for yourself and your loved ones. You can visit Vaccines.gov to find a covid vaccination site near you. We will only claim victory over this virus by working together!