States and stores on Friday said they were largely dropping their mask requirements after a top U.S. health agency advised that people fully vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19 could stop donning face coverings.
The governors of at least 10 states and officials at a slew of retail giants, like Walmart, announced they would no longer require masks, at least for those fully vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Delaware’s governor, Democrat John Carney, said effective May 21 residents will not be forced to wear masks anytime they are indoors with people they do not live with.
“It’s clear that the COVID-19 vaccines are extremely safe and protective against infection and serious illness,” he said in a statement.
“Delawareans who are fully vaccinated have significant protection against this virus and can feel comfortable getting back to the things they loved to do before this pandemic. For our neighbors who aren’t vaccinated, the message is clear. The COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection we have against the virus. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect you and those you love. In the meantime, Delawareans who are unvaccinated, including children, should continue to wear masks in public places,” he added.
Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Vermont, and Virginia also relaxed or eliminated masking requirements. Some also eased or rescinded social distancing mandates.
“Today is the day that so many of us have been waiting for and working toward. We finally do clearly see the light at the end of that tunnel. Our long, hard-fought battle against the worst global pandemic in more than a century is finally nearing an end,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, told a press conference.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday that it was rolling back its strict masking guidance. People who are fully vaccinated against the CCP virus no longer have to wear masks indoors, its director said.
Fully vaccinated means a person has received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or both doses of vaccines from Moderna or Pfizer, and two weeks have elapsed.
The CDC guidance is not binding but is followed closely by many states across the nation, though some governors had relaxed masking and similar COVID-fueled restrictions earlier, citing the steep drop in COVID-19 cases and other metrics and the rise in the number of vaccinated.
Over 120 million Americans, or 36 percent of the population, have been fully vaccinated against the CCP virus as of May 14.
President Joe Biden in March called rescinding mask mandates “Neanderthal thinking” and top health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci condemned the easing by governors like Greg Abbott of Texas. But the states that relaxed or removed restrictions saw a drop in cases, befuddling Fauci.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on Friday that Biden “has been listening to the guidance of our health and medical experts and teams, and that’s exactly what we’re doing in this case” when asked about his earlier criticism of removing mask mandates.
The CDC’s experts “were the ones who determined what this guidance would be, based on their own data, and what the timeline would be,” she added.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky was on television just one day before the updated recommendations defending guidance that had fully vaccinated people wear masks both indoors and in some situations outdoors.
New research on the efficacy of the vaccines and the severity of COVID-19 in so-called breakthrough cases, or cases among the fully vaccinated, compelled the change, officials say.
Large retailers followed the CDC’s lead.
Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Publix, and Trader Joe’s all announced that they would not force customers who are fully vaccinated to wear masks in states that do not require the coverings.
Costco, in a similar update to the other retailers, said that they will not check for proof of vaccination but hope that customers abide by the revised policy.
Walmart told associates in a note that they would also not need to wear masks unless they are not vaccinated.
Other businesses, like Target, CVS, Kroger, and Walgreens, said their requirements are staying the same for now.
A handful of governors are not altering masking mandates as of now.
“We have received the newly revised guidance from the CDC regarding mask wearing and social distancing for those with vaccinations and are reviewing them,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a statement.