Let me start off by highlighting what I hate the most about yesterday’s announcement from the CDC regarding masks.
The CDC does not control whether or not masks are required. The CDC cannot give you permission to take off your mask indoors.
And yet, that’s precisely how the Director of the CDC made it sound. She phrased it as if the CDC gave all fully-vaccinated Americans permission to take their masks off. And that’s how all the news reporting reads. All the headlines say that vaccinated people may now remove their masks in most settings.
That’s not true.
To be clear, the CDC issues medical guidance on this issue. Only. The CDC does not control whether or not masks are legally required. The governors of the various states control the legal requirements on mask use. The CDC cannot give you permission to go maskless in public indoor spaces. Only your state government can do that. Or, possibly, your local government. Or, beyond that, whether the owners of various public venues choose to require masks even if it is not legally mandated.
In Virginia, until the Governor modifies the most recent executive order addressing COVID-19, you are still required to wear a mask in any public indoor space, vaccinated or not. For example, if you go grocery shopping in Virginia, you are required to wear a mask covering mouth and nose, unless you claim that some medical condition prevents you from doing so.
CDC didn’t even bother to mention this aspect of it. And as a result, the announcement was absolutely misleading. You have to go onto the CDC website to find the correct wording of the actual announcement. It reads as follows, emphasis mine:
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.
To be clear, rolling back mask guidance and mask mandates is commonplace, as the pandemic ebbs. This Washington Post article gives a nice summary of what’s happening internationally.
Other countries seem to be able to do that in a clear and unambiguous manner. But here, in the U.S.A., that process has now devolved into yet more confusing and unhelpful information from the U.S. CDC. To know the actual story, you have to dig it up on the CDC website and read the caveats, as above.
I’m not even going to get into the social engineering aspect of this. Let’s hope the CDC made this decision based on objective criteria. Because it surely seems to have been pitched primarily to give people an incentive to get vaccinated.
Let me try to restate this accurately. Mask requirements are controlled by state governments, local governments, and by private enterprises. The CDC now believes that risk are low enough that fully-vaccinated people no longer need masks when doing most common-place activities. It has now given new guidance on this issue. Whether or not you can take off your mask depends on the extent to which state and local governments, and various private entities, align their rules with this most recent guidance from the CDC.