The COVID pandemic is by no means over. Yet the CDC is saying that it’s okay for fully vaccinated people to go without masks and social distancing indoors and outdoors—in most circumstances.
Minnesota has also lifted its mask mandate, but has left it up to cities and businesses to make their own determination.
What prompted the sudden turnaround?
Two things. First, fully-vaccinated people rarely become infected and, even less likely, rarely transmit the virus. Second, currently available vaccines appear to be effective against variants.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 94 percent effective in preventing COVID-related illness, hospitalization or death. Even those who’ve only gotten their first shot gain a huge benefit, with an 82-percent effectiveness against variants.
Because the Johnson & Johnson vaccine became available later, there are fewer studies available. Health experts are still gathering data on how well it prevents infection and transmission.
Some retailers are already revising COVID safety guidelines. Walmart, Costco and Starbucks have announced mask-free shopping for fully-vaccinated customers, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial regulations.
Yet the CDC’s relaxed guidelines do not extend to all spaces. Mask wearing and social distancing are recommended in healthcare settings and on public transportation.