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To mask or not now? It depends
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To mask or not now? It depends

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Are you confused about continuing to wearing a mask? We have some answers from national experts and local public health expert Bob Rauner, MD, MPH, president of Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln:

Why did the CDC guidance on masks change? The CDC bases its recommendations on the latest scientific data including evidence on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Previously, there was insufficient evidence to gauge the likelihood of vaccinated individuals carrying and transmitting COVID-19 to unvaccinated people. A growing body of evidence now suggests that — in addition to providing a very high level of protection for the person who is vaccinated — it is very unlikely that a fully vaccinated person will transmit the virus to others.

In addition, new data suggests that the vaccine is effective against variants of the virus. Based on that new evidence, the CDC stated that fully vaccinated people are safe to resume most daily activities without wearing a mask. The guidance did not change for unvaccinated people.

When do I need to wear a mask? It’s critical for unvaccinated people age 2 and older to wear a well-fitted mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household. Unvaccinated people do not need to wear a mask when outdoors and away from others not in their household or at small outdoor gatherings where all other guests are fully vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated people should continue to wear a well-fitted mask in indoor public spaces, when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease, and when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households. Fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks when outdoors except when attending crowded events. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people should wear masks when traveling on a plane, bus, train or other form of public transportation.

What does the CDC mask guidance mean for local and state regulations? My workplace? Local businesses? Everyone should continue to follow our local and state rules and regulations and recommendations. In addition, everyone should comply with the practices of businesses that continue to require masks. This is particularly important in indoor settings where vaccinated and unvaccinated people may interact.

I’m not fully vaccinated. What does the CDC mask guidance mean for me? The guidance on wearing masks has not changed for unvaccinated people or partially vaccinated people, who should continue to wear a mask and maintain social distance, particularly when indoors or in crowded outdoor settings. To protect their friends, family and community, unvaccinated people age 2 and older should wear a well-fitted mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household. Unvaccinated people do not need to wear a mask outdoors if they practice social distancing or when they are at small outdoor gatherings where all other guests are fully vaccinated. You are not fully vaccinated until two weeks have passed since your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or since your one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

I’m fully vaccinated. What does the new CDC mask guidance mean for me? If you are fully vaccinated — which means two weeks have passed since your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or since your one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — you have a very low risk of contracting COVID-19 or spreading it to others. You can resume normal activities without wearing a mask, with some notable exceptions.

For example, fully vaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks in health care settings, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, public transportation and airplanes. Additionally, vaccinated people should continue to follow local and state regulations, including individual business (such as retail stores and restaurants) and workplace requirements, which may differ from CDC guidance depending on local scenarios and transmission rates.

While COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective, no vaccine provides 100% immunity. Even with new and evolving guidance, fully vaccinated individuals may make the personal decision to continue to wear a mask based on their own risk assessment and preference. Those with certain medical conditions such as immuno-suppression should consult their physicians regarding the continuation of mask-wearing and other protective measures.

How does the new CDC mask guidance affect my children and their summer activities? Currently, no COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children under 12 years old. Children ages 12 to 15 can now receive the Pfizer vaccine. Once children ages 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated — two weeks after their second Pfizer dose — they can resume summer activities without wearing a mask unless required by local, state or business rules. Children age 2 and older who are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated should wear masks in public settings, particularly where social distancing is not possible, and when around people who don’t live in their household.

Lowering the risk for kids - Choosing summer activities with lower risk, in addition to wearing masks, can reduce unvaccinated children’s risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. These activities include exploring the outdoors, taking a road trip with members of your household, or visiting vaccinated friends or family members from another household.

No activity is totally risk free: Our kids ride bikes, they go skateboarding, etc. Parents should monitor infections rates in our community and make choices that feel best for their family. Being in crowds and poorly ventilated spaces puts unvaccinated people, including children, at higher risk for COVID-19.

Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln (HealthyLincoln.org) and LNKTV Health (LNKTVhealth.lincoln.ne.gov) bring you Health and the City, a monthly column that examines relevant community health issues and spotlights the local organizations that impact community wellness. Direct questions or comments to jpearsonanderson@healthylincoln.org.

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