The back and forth guidance from the CDC has brought about national confusion.
Many Americans are struggling to understand how we went from:
“Masks aren’t necessary for the general public and should only be worn by sick people and healthcare workers,” to “masks are now mandatory and are the best tool we have when it comes to flattening the curve.”
Contrary to popular belief, the reason for this seesawing is not due to some sinister conspiracy theory.
Science isn’t perfect.
Studying, observing, and experimenting must take place before any scientist can make an accurate prediction. Even then, new discoveries are constantly changing our understanding of the world we live in.
That being said, because health officials are dealing with a new virus, they weren’t able to have all the answers right away. In fact, it’s still too soon for them to know everything about COVID-19.
Timeline of events
The initial guidance against mask-wearing was issued at the very beginning of the pandemic when hardly any research had been conducted. Health officials were unaware of how easily the virus would spread and how long infectious particles could remain in the air.
As time went on and scientists were able to study the virus, they then discovered that COVID-19 was highly contagious and could be spread via asymptomatic carriers. This information caused them to quickly change their guidance about masks and call for a national mask mandate.
This guidance remained in place for about a year, until a few months after the vaccine rollout began. Cases began to drop and scientists discovered that vaccines are effective against variants and can reduce asymptomatic transmission. Enough research was conducted to advise that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in certain places.
As of June 3rd, 2021, the CDC states, “Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations.” This exception includes but is not limited to: public transportation, doctors’ offices, and hospitals.
The current guidance for unvaccinated people remains unchanged. Regardless of whether you’re vaccinated or not, you’re not 100% exempt from wearing a mask in public just yet. Even if you’ve had COVID before, if you haven’t received the vaccine, you must still social distance and wear a mask in all public places that require them.
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