Health Report: CDC updates mask guidelines for vaccinated individuals

Published: May. 4, 2021 at 4:25 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Last week the CDC updated their guidelines regarding mask wearing for those vaccinated and unvaccinated in a variety of situations.

The CDC has included a list of safe activities and scenarios on their website that shows the degrees of safety and precautions that should be taken for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

Anna Frick works in Syndromic Surveillance with the Department of Health and Social Services, and commented that these changes were expected due to the success of the various COVID-19 vaccines. Frick explained, “We really were expecting the CDC to start making a lot of these changes. I think a lot of this is them confirming that the vaccines work as expected and everything is going well, and so we’ve really been expecting more of those guidelines to come out. Looking at their recommendations for unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people not necessarily needing to mask together, I think the idea there is that it’s mostly related to the efficacy of vaccines. So that’s why they’ve changed some of those guidelines.”

While the CDC does say unvaccinated individuals can be around others who are vaccinated without a mask with minimal risk, this still only applies to small groups consisting of no more than two households. Frick said, “You’ll notice that when you look at that chart, that they’re still pretty specific about if we’re talking about two households and there’s one unvaccinated person in that group of otherwise fully vaccinated people. That’s when it starts to be considered safe. If we’re talking about a group of multiple households with different levels of vaccination going on, then that would shift into some of the less safe groups.”

The CDC also still recommends that outdoor gatherings are the safest activities for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

“In terms of looking at people wearing masks outdoors, the data continues to support that as we see more modeling studies and more research. When we’re looking at COVID spread, it has a lot to do with sharing air, and so when we’re outside the amount of air that is available to share is very large and there’s often wind, or wind that you create by moving, that dilutes the amount of virus that is in the air around you. So that becomes a lot safer because it’s much harder for you to breathe in the air that contains the virus,” remarked Frick.

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