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Despite new CDC COVID guidance, some still require masks

In a recent article by Ralph Ellis of WebMD, he discussed the new CDC guidance which confused some people by stating fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks indoors, but many businesses and some state and local governments have not relaxed their own mask rules yet.

"The whole country is not a homogeneous space," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said Thursday in explaining that the CDC doesn’t trump state and local restrictions. "So, we have some jurisdictions that have higher levels of cases. We have some jurisdictions that have lower levels of vaccine administration."

Big companies such as Kroger, Home Depot, Walgreens, and Macy’s are keeping policies requiring employees and shoppers to mask up -- at least for the time being, according to Insider. Others, however, have taken steps to ease or drop mask requirements, including Target, Publix, Costco. Starbucks, Walmart and Trader Joe's.

Two unions representing grocery and retail workers said the CDC guidance needs clarification and puts their members at risk.

“While we all share the desire to return to a mask-free normal, today’s CDC guidance is confusing and fails to consider how it will impact essential workers who face frequent exposure to individuals who are not vaccinated and refuse to wear masks,” Marc Perrone of the United Food and Commercial Workers said in a statement.

According to WebMD, Lisa LaBruno, senior executive vice president for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said her group seeks consistency from the CDC.

“CDC’s announcement on masks creates ambiguity for retailers because it fails to fully align with state and local orders,” she said. “These conflicting positions put retailers and their employees in incredibly difficult situations. We urge state and local governments to coordinate with the CDC as additional guidance is issued on the road to normalcy.”

The new CDC guidance says people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are no longer required to wear masks or physically distance, regardless of the location or size of the gathering.

Walensky said there are some clear exceptions. Those who have symptoms should still wear masks, the CDC says, and everybody should wear masks while traveling on airplanes, buses, or trains and while inside hospitals, homeless shelters, and prisons.

CDC shift surprised many in public health

The CDC’s announcement surprised many health experts, who expected a federal mask policy to last at least several more months, according to The New York Times. The paper surveyed 723 epidemiologists between April 28 and May 10 -- before the CDC announced the new mask guidance.

When asked to predict how long Americans would need to wear masks when indoors with people whose vaccination status they don’t know, only 5% of the respondents said Americans would no longer need to wear a mask indoors by the summer.

The survey said 26% thought masks should be worn in those situations from now on, 26% said for more than a year, 29% said one year, and 15% said half a year.

When asked if a mask should be worn outdoors in a large outdoor crowd, 88% of the epidemiologists said yes, even for fully vaccinated people.

Many of the respondents noted that masks protect unvaccinated people and people with underlying health conditions. “Until community transmission is lower, it protects the whole community and the other people in the room to wear masks,” Julia Raifman, ScD, an assistant professor of public health at Boston University, told the Times.

You can read the article in its entirety here.

Sources: WebMD, The New York Times

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