Tuesday, May 24

‘Big day for America’ as fully vaccinated allowed to ditch the masks

Fully vaccinated people in the US can now stop wearing masks outdoors and in most indoor settings.

“Today is a great day for America,” President Joe Biden said Thursday during a rose garden address announcing the new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask,” he said, summarizing the new guidance and encouraging more Americans to roll up their sleeves. “Get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do.”

The guide still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters, but it will help clear the way to reopen workplaces, schools, and other locations, even eliminating the need for distancing. social for those who are fully vaccinated.

The CDC and the Biden administration have faced pressure to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated people, those who have passed two weeks from the last required dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, in part to highlight the benefits of getting the shot. The country’s aggressive vaccination campaign has paid off: U.S. virus cases are at their lowest rate since September, deaths are at their lowest since last April, and the test’s positivity rate is down. at the lowest point since the pandemic began.

The pandemic has killed more than 584,000 people in the United States, the highest death toll in the world.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said the long-awaited change is due to the millions of people who have been vaccinated and is based on the latest science on how well those vaccines are working.

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“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physically distancing themselves,” Walensky said. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things you stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

The new guide is likely to open the door to confusion, as there is no foolproof way for companies or others to distinguish between those who are fully vaccinated and those who are not.

Walensky and Biden said that people who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks indoors.

“We’ve come this far; protect yourself all the way to the finish line,” Biden said, noting that most Americans under 65 are not yet fully vaccinated. He said the government would not enforce the mask use guide for those who are not yet fully vaccinated.

“We are not going to go out and arrest people,” added Biden, who said he believes the American people want to take care of their neighbors. “If you haven’t been vaccinated, wear your mask for your own protection and the protection of people who haven’t been vaccinated yet.”

The announcement came as many states and communities have already lifted mask mandates amid the improvement in virus numbers and more Americans have removed face coverings after receiving vaccinations.

To date, more than 154 million Americans, nearly 47% of the population, have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 119 million are fully vaccinated. The rate of new vaccines has slowed in recent weeks, but with the authorization Wednesday of Pfizer’s injection for children ages 12 to 15, a new burst of doses is expected in the coming days.

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The CDC’s announcement that Americans could begin shedding one of the most visible symbols of the pandemic was in stark contrast to other nations, with much of the world still struggling to contain the virus amid global disparities in vaccines.

Just two weeks ago, the CDC recommended that fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks indoors in all settings and outdoors in large crowds.

Walensky said evidence from the US and Israel shows that the vaccines are just as protective in real-world use as they were in previous studies and that they continue to work so far despite some worrisome mutated versions spreading. of the virus.

The more people continue to get vaccinated, the faster infections will decline, and the more difficult it will be for the virus to mutate enough to escape vaccines, he stressed, urging all people over the age of 12 who are not yet vaccinated to sign up.

And while some people still get COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, Walensky said, that’s rare. He cited evidence that these infections tend to be milder, shorter, and more difficult to spread to other people. If vaccinated people develop COVID-19 symptoms, they should immediately put the mask back on and get tested, he said.

There are some caveats. Walensky encouraged people with weak immune systems, such as from organ transplants or cancer treatments, to speak with their doctors before removing their masks. That’s due to the continuing uncertainty about whether vaccines can boost a weakened immune system as well as they do normal, healthy ones.

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