Infectious disease doctors at UVA Health react to new CDC (un)masking guidance

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 10:37 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says if you’re fully vaccinated, there’s no need to keep your mask on. The new guidance comes with more than 1-in-3 Americans having gotten both shots and COVID-19 cases falling.

After Thursday’s announcement, we reached out to two UVA Health infectious disease experts. We wanted to ask if they viewed this as the right decision and if they could share what you should know.

The new look of masks around the wrist, or even under your chin, are acceptable according to the CDC.

The new rule says: two shots, or one Johnson & Johnson, plus two weeks, and you don’t have to wear a mask in nearly all indoor and outdoor spaces.

“I think that the guidance given by the CDC about what vaccinated people can safely do is entirely correct,” said Dr. Patrick Jackson, an infectious disease specialist.

Jackson says if you’re fully vaccinated, your risk of getting seriously sick of COVID is extremely low. But for unvaccinated people, masks need to stay on. He says that will help keep them, and others around them, safe.

“The goal should be to minimize the number of viral replications that are happening in the United States and everywhere in the world,” he said. “So really vaccination is going to be the key to that and tamping down on the virus growing.”

Dr. Taison Bell, who runs the ICU at UVA, has some concerns with the new recommendation.

“How do you determine who’s vaccinated, who’s not vaccinated?” he asked. “It really puts people in a bind to try to determine what policies they should have.”

But Bell does like that the CDC left open the possibility to scale back the recommendation if our nation’s recovery doesn’t continue.

“This is not like Monopoly where we just pass go, you can’t go back,” Bell said. “If the numbers are moving in the wrong direction, you have to have the ability to rein it back in.”

Both Bell and Jackson say they hope the glimpse of a maskless future will encourage more people to get the safe and effective vaccine.

“One of the things that I’ve heard from people who are hesitant about getting the vaccine is ‘if I get vaccinated, nothing changed,’” Jackson said. “And I think this guidance really shows that lots of things change, almost everything.”

Bell and Jackson say they understand that not every fully vaccinated person is ready to just ditch their mask. It’s been a really hard year and some just may find comfort in wearing their mask. The doctors say there’s no harm in keeping them on and everyone - masked or not - should show compassion.

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