During an MSNBC town hall this week, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci summed up when he thinks vaccinated people should be wearing a face mask in as succinct a way as he’s done for the entirety of the pandemic. Again, just to stress, he was referring to fully vaccinated people in his answer — so, in other words, people who are at least two weeks out from having received their second dose of a 2-dose vaccine regimen. Here’s what he said:
“The only time you need a mask, if you’re vaccinated, is if you’re going to a very, very concentrated area where people are literally walking all over each other.” Dr. Fauci said that during the MSNBC town hall (video of which is here, starting around the 46:48 mark) in response to a question about CDC guidelines, which have been a bit confusing, to say the least. However, that’s poised to change — and in short order.
The CDC had already, before now, offered guidance easing up on its recommendation that people, including fully vaccinated people, continue wearing face masks generally. In light of the fact that it’s been understood for months now that almost no contraction of COVID-19 is happening outdoors, for example, the CDC pulled back and said people can stop wearing face masks outdoors if they’re not in crowded situations. And now, as of Thursday, the CDC is preparing to pull back its face mask guidance even more.
Per the Associated Press, the new guidance will allow people to go mask-less in most places. This is important, because one of the hang-ups that some people have had about the coronavirus vaccine is this question of — wait a minute, why do I still need to follow all these precautions, like wearing face masks, even after I get the vaccine?
The Biden administration has been pressed for weeks to ease up on restrictions for people who are fully vaccinated, partly as a way to illustrate to non-vaccinated people the benefits that await them once they get the jab. According to the AP, the new guidance will still call for mandatory mask-wearing indoors, in crowded places like planes and hospitals, but this is being seen as offering a path back to normalcy for other places, like schools and the workplace.
Top White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said that people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine do not need to wear a face mask outdoors, but should do so in crowded settings pic.twitter.com/ZastsFlgzj
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 13, 2021
I still don’t expect the CDC’s change to clear up all confusion, however, at least not immediately. Here where I live in Memphis, for example, our county health department as of this weekend is dropping the general county-wide face mask mandate. I asked the regional cinema chain that has a number of theaters here in Memphis, for example, whether its own face mask requirement will stay in effect, and they tell me it will. That’s because they’re following the industry CinemaSafe standards. However, the CinemaSafe standards specifically say that the standards default to CDC guidance — which, again, changed today so that fully-vaccinated people can ditch their face mask now in most settings.
This all follows, by the way, some additional comments from Dr. Fauci in recent days, in which he offered the possibility that face masks may diminish to being a seasonal occurrence that we will simply get used to, in tandem with seasonal flare-ups of the COVID-19 virus going forward.