KERN COUNTY, Calif. — People who are fully vaccinated can now go maskless. That's the latest from the CDC Thursday. 23ABC is taking a closer look at the new rules and how they could impact your everyday life.
"Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing."
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, called this step an important moment in the fight against COVID-19. She added that science supports these new rules and that fully vaccinated people have minimal risk of getting sick or spreading COVID-19.
"Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing. If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”
“This past year has shown us that this virus can be unpredictable, so if things get worse, there’s always a chance that we may need to make changes to these recommendations,” she said. “But we know that the more people who are vaccinated, the less cases we will have and the less chances of a new spike or additional variants emerging."
So are there any exceptions to these rules?
The CDC says even if you're fully vaccinated it might be a good idea to keep masks on while you travel because crowded planes and packed public transit could increase risks of infection. Also important to note, these rules do not apply to medical settings. So if you're going to the doctor or end up in the emergency room chances are you'll still have to wear a mask.
The announcement from the CDC today is leading many to ask how this will affect guidelines on a state and local level. Especially since Kern County is still in the state’s orange tier.
As is the case with most of these big announcements, local health officials found out about it at the same time that we did. That means that there’s still some work to be done on local guidelines before those in Kern County can take off their masks.
“We are waiting for the state’s guidance to come out, we don’t know when that’s going to happen,” said Michelle Corson, Kern County Public Health.
Thursday's news from the CDC marks a major step toward returning to pre-pandemic life. Although the agency says those who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most situations, the final say for California residents and businesses comes from the state.
"We look forward to getting the information, and again, it’s another incentive to get fully vaccinated as soon as you can,” said Corson.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director.
The CDC made the announcement as the number of COVID cases and deaths across the country continues to improve, which medical experts attribute to vaccines.
“We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” said Walensky.
Although some questions remain, both the CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and President Joe Biden explained that some people across the nation will still feel more comfortable wearing their masks even if they’re vaccinated, and that’s ok.
“If you see them, please treat them with kindness and respect,” said Biden.
As of Thursday, there is no clear directive from the CDC about how exactly businesses or public health departments should move forward with masks. However, the agency states on its website that fully vaccinated people still need to follow some guidelines in certain situations.
“Federal, state, local, tribal or territory laws, rules and regulations, including businesses and workplace guidance,” said Corson.
California had already planned to drop its mask mandate on June 15, for outdoor activities, but not indoor ones.
Our national correspondent Joe St. George is reporting that big corporations are meeting with risk assessment teams to decide what they’ll individually require. Those are the types of decisions that will likely decide what you can do with or without masks.
Since the first shots of the COVID-19 vaccine rolled out top health officials have said they want to achieve herd immunity before returning to normal. Dr. Anthony Fauci says to meet that goal close to 85 percent of the United States population needs to be fully vaccinated.
How close is Kern County to meeting that metric?
Johns Hopkins University reports that over 36 percent of the U.S. is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Data also shows that about 46 percent of the nation has had at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. Numbers show that California has 33.8 percent of its population fully vaccinated. In Kern County, about 55 percent of people here have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
What groups of people are getting vaccinated locally?
Latinos remain the most vaccinated group in Kern County making up roughly 40 percent of the total shots given. White people follow with about 35 percent. People who listed their race as other are third with about 7 percent of the total vaccinations. Asian-Americans make up about 6 percent of all vaccinations.
Public health says one more person has died because of the coronavirus. The county has now lost 1,374 people to the virus since the pandemic started. The department reported just 38 more cases of the virus. There are now 109,177 cases of covid-19 in Kern County.