New CDC guidelines released May 13 held promises of normalcy. Fully vaccinated Americans, for the most part, no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors. Large and small activities such as concerts or parties can be enjoyed by those who have received a vaccine. According to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky: “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.” The only exceptions recommended are health care facilities and public transportation hubs. It is unclear how anyone intends to regulate the new mask rules – if at all – when not everyone is vaccinated. This may trigger more conversation surrounding vaccine passports and action by state and local governments.
It is a major step towards loosening the restrictions on Americans and businesses across the country. Some red states such as Florida and Texas advanced into their final phases’ months ago, defying CDC guidelines. With this new announcement, even covid-cautious state leaders may end or nearly end their pandemic rules and regulations. That is if they choose to remain pious followers of the agency or jump ship.
Within 48 hours, multiple governors and politicians have swiftly announced they will or will not follow the new guidelines. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has decided to drop the CDC, announcing she will maintain the mask-wearing requirements for Congress and staff on the House floor. Thirty-four House Republicans sent the speaker a letter urging her to stop attempting to “control the House.” Governor Murphy of New Jersey feels his state is “not ready” to move forward and will not follow the new suggestions. Virginia Governor Northam on the other hand is following the CDC.
Politically divided states are seeing conflicts between local and state officials. Minnesota’s governor dropped the mask requirement for vaccinated residents on May 14 within 24 hours of the big news. The mayor of Minneapolis, however, will not be following suit or changing any existing mask rules.
Things Are Getting Complicated
Only 33.9% of the United States population is vaccinated. That number may increase, but it will not reach 100%. Based on this reality, will there be plans to identify who is vaccinated and who must still wear masks? Will a vaccine card or a smartphone app be required? A personal identification number to enter a building or large event? So many questions and so few answers.
The current option is based on an honor system. Trader Joe’s will no longer require fully vaccinated shoppers to wear a mask; the grocery store chain will not require proof of vaccination. Some customers are still shopping masked, even double-masked. Out of 50 customers at a South Pasadena Trader Joe’s, only two shopped mask-less. A 72-year-old, fully vaccinated man shopped double-masked on Friday, May 15 as he does not want to “take chances”. The fear instilled into the American people regarding COVID-19 cannot and will not disappear overnight.
There are a few paths that could be taken: vaccine passports, honor code, or a bit of a mix. If the federal government attempts to pick a side or act, it will receive backlash and defiance from state officials and the American people. Socially, things may get a bit weird. Each individual may be looked at, analyzed, and judged. A portion of the un-vaccinated population may roam mask-less with no system in place to check them. Undoubtedly, the over-cautious will keep remaining double-masked unless their fearless leader, Dr. Fauci, gives them the green light – and perhaps will retain the masks even then.