The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spurred nationwide confusion when it announced last week that it was overhauling guidance on mask-wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic,” the CDC said in its updated guidance. “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.”
CDC Director Rachel Walensky said: “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities — large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing. If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”
So, uh, everything is back to normal, everyone can go maskless if vaccinated? Not by a long shot. Not only do all the state and local laws apply (don’t forget tribal regulations), but every business and office building and sports venue can have its own rules, too.
Former Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams says the CDC blew the rollout.
“I think this was an appropriate call based on the science,” Dr. Jerome Adams said Monday on CNN’s “New Day.” “I think the play call was right, but they fumbled the ball at the one-yard line in terms of communicating this to the public.”
The new CDC guidance on mask wearing “was an appropriate call based on the science,” says Dr. Jerome Adams, the former US Surgeon General under the Trump administration. “But they fumbled the ball at the one yard line in terms of communicating this to the public.” pic.twitter.com/K3R0bhAoC9
— New Day (@NewDay) May 17, 2021
Adams, who served as surgeon general under President Donald Trump from 2017 through the end of his term in 2021, said the new CDC guidance announced by Walensky left everyone “blindsided.”
“I think you miss the nuance about protecting yourself versus protecting an organization,” Adams said. “It was a little bit of whiplash for the American public in terms of them saying just a week before, ‘Keep your mask on’ and then all of sudden they’re saying, ‘Now you can take them off.'”
The sudden CDC announcement left millions of Americans wondering whether they need to mask up or if they can go maskless, and while some stores immediately changed their rules, others did not. Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Publix, and Trader Joe’s, for example, all bailed on the requirement, saying people who have been fully vaccinated can go without masks.
“In accordance with CDC guidelines, individuals who are not fully vaccinated are required to use face coverings over their noses and mouths while inside any Publix store,” the grocery store chain said in a statement.
But it’s unclear who will be allowed to go maskless or whether stores will require proof. Costco sought to clear that up, saying, “We will not require proof of vaccination, but we ask for members’ responsible and respectful cooperation with this revised policy.”
While some stores said they would make no change to mask mandates, Walmart — the country’s No. 1 retailer, with more than 4,700 stores in the U.S. — said in a memo to employees that vaccinated customers will be allowed to shop without masks. The chain said employees who have been vaccinated can work without masks as of May 18, adding that it is paying $75 bonuses to vaccinated workers as “a thank you for getting vaccinated.”
“We will continue to request that non-vaccinated customers and members wear face coverings in our stores and clubs. We will update the signage in our facilities to reflect this,” said the memo from both Walmart and Sam’s Club.