ORLANDO, Fla. – Many people have questions and concerns about the new CDC guidance that says fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks in most indoor and outdoor places.
News 6 gathered viewers’ comments about the new mask guidelines on our social media platforms and brought them to medical experts.
Chad Neilsen is an infectious disease epidemiologist with UF Health Jacksonville. Dr. Jill Roberts is an associate professor with the USF College of Public Health.
Neilsen said he has mixed feelings about the new guidance.
“From a scientific perspective, I’m celebrating because it makes sense. We trust in this vaccine; we’ve been pushing folks to get the vaccine, and this is the outcome of it,” Neilsen said. “On the other hand, as a healthcare administrator, it also puts me in a sticky situation because how do we move forward with this as policy when we still have so many unvaccinated people out in the community.”
Roberts said she also shares similar mixed feelings.
“I’m very excited to see that we’re actually opening up so much opportunity for those people who are vaccinated, and I mean fully vaccinated,” Roberts said. “But I’m a little concerned some folks may be a little confused on the guidelines and what that means for those people who are not vaccinated.”
News 6 wanted to clear any confusion.
One viewer wrote on our Facebook page asking, “When you say vaccinated, are they including those that already caught the virus?”
“When we say vaccinated individuals, we mean literally you have completed the single dose from Johnson and Johnson or the two-shot series from Moderna or Pfizer,” Neilsen said. “If you have obtained what we call natural immunity, so you have had COVID and you built an immune response for it, you are not considered a vaccinated individual.”
Another viewer wrote “Not sure removing the masks is not a good idea” while someone else wrote “I’m vaxxed, but still wear a mask in public indoor places.”
“If people feel more comfortable wearing that mask, they should continue wearing it,” Roberts said. “I hear people say, ‘You know I’m a little scared. I don’t want to go out without my mask on.’ So I think we should have some respect for those individuals and say, ‘You know what, maybe that person is a little scared. Let’s let them go ahead and wear that mask. It’s not harming me in any way, shape, or form.’”
Both medical experts believe loosening mask guidelines could be the federal government’s way to encourage people to get the vaccine. But Neilsen said only time will tell if that works.
“Although that’s really great in theory, is it going to have a real bump in vaccination numbers? Probably not because as we know those who are eligible and able to get the shot and aren’t getting it likely aren’t going to get it,” he said.
Other people were concerned about lifting mask restrictions when we haven’t reached herd immunity yet.
“I don’t think herd immunity is going to be a reasonable goal. I think what is reasonable is that we have enough vaccine to give to anyone who is eligible who wants one and people are going to have to decide what their risk aversion is to COVID,” Neilsen said.
Both Neilsen and Roberts said whether you wear a mask or not, we all need to be respectful of people’s decisions, as well as respect businesses that still have mask rules in place as they evaluate their safety protocols.