Yesterday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it was easing its recommendations on mask mandates, updating its guidance to state that masks are no longer required in most indoor settings for fully vaccinated Americans.
During a May 13 White House COVID-19 response briefing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said, "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 now start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment."
The CDC cited six studies, including one in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that supported its change in mask guidance.
In response to employer questions on how the recent change will affect their business, David Aronoff, MD, VUMC Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and Tom Talbot, MD, VUMC Chief Hospital Epidemiologist, offered the following guidance:
1. Masking will no longer be required in indoor or outdoor spaces. CDC states that those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in particular do not need to mask in most situations. Exceptions include when in healthcare facilities and on public transportation. (While on any part of VUMC’s campus, all patients, visitors and VUMC staff are still required to wear masks.)
2. It's still recommended that unvaccinated individuals wear masks given their risk of contracting potentially severe COVID-19 infection. Unvaccinated individuals should also wear masks to decrease the chance of spreading infection to colleagues who cannot mount a protective response from the vaccine, such as individuals with cancer or who have undergone organ transplants.
3. Individuals may still wear masks based on an assessment of their own personal risk. It's recommended that employers support their employees' decisions and not question those who wish to continue masking.
To learn more about the new mask guidance, the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and ways to build vaccine readiness in your workforce, don't miss a new Vanderbilt Health webinar with Dr. Aronoff on May 25. As part of the webinar, VUMC behavioral health expert Abhi Saxena, MD, will address anxiety around returning to work and navigating big transitions after a tough season of personal struggles and loss. Register here.