CDC: Fully vaccinated people can go without masks in most indoor settings

Dr. Howard Forman, Yale School of Public Health Professor joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss the latest from the CDC that says people that are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can shed masks in most indoor settings.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. The CDC is continuing their push to get Americans vaccinated, announcing a major shift yesterday in policies for fully vaccinated Americans. The agency said that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors and don't have to socially distance indoors either. It's a big change that, once again, incentivizes people to get vaccinated for a quicker return to normal, though it's not immediately clear how anyone at restaurants or places of business are going to be able to verify someone has, indeed, been vaccinated.

The TSA also noted yesterday that a federal policy requiring masks remains in place in airports, rails, and bus stations. That policy is not set to expire until September 14. And interestingly, the World Health Organization also came out with a statement of their own, urging caution on blanket mask lifting, with one expert there highlighting that, quote, "In the instance of a country that wishes to take away a mask mandate, that should only be done in the context of considering both the intensity of transmission in the area and the level of vaccine coverage."

Joining us now for more on that is Dr. Howard Forman, Yale School of Public Health professor. He joins us once again here. Doctor, good to be chatting with you again. Obviously, states have their own rules when it comes to masks that they'll probably be tweaking. But what's your take here on maybe the blanket shift from the CDC?

HOWARD FORMAN: Look, the CDC offers guidance, and that guidance is taken very seriously. So it's important that they convey to the public the confidence they have and what we know right now. And what we know right now is that vaccinated people are exceedingly safe, that the breakthrough cases are very, very low. To my knowledge, we still don't have an identified case of a vaccinated person spreading to another vaccinated person. When you add those things up, it really says that we need to have a different set of rules and guidelines for vaccinating individuals.

It does not mean that we're getting rid of mask mandates, quite frankly, because if you're not vaccinated, you should still be socially distancing. You should still be wearing a mask. In many settings, you probably should continue getting tested at a regular basis to protect those around you.

AKIKO FUJITA: Doctor, how do you enforce that, though? I mean, those of us who've gotten vaccinated and have our vaccine cards, you could just as easily forged them. Doesn't this put sort of businesses, restaurants, in a tougher position? I mean, how do you see the enforcement playing out?

HOWARD FORMAN: Look, I think it is incumbent upon private firms and private individuals to have their own sense of enforcement. I will not have a conversation with somebody that I meet on the street without a mask on, without socially distancing, facing that individual right now. Unless I know somebody is vaccinated, I'm still going to protect myself, even though I know, as somebody who's been vaccinated for four months at this point, even though I know the likelihood of me getting symptomatic disease is very, very low, I'm still going to do what I can to minimize even that small risk, to begin with.

But if I'm in rooms with people that I know to be vaccinated, particularly at work, particularly if my employer requires to be vaccinated-- in just five minutes, before we went on the air, Yale University announced that by August 1st, all employees will be required to be vaccinated. That changes the environment for me because it means that everybody in my workplace is verified to be vaccinated. That is a game changer for my workplace. That can be a game changer for other people's workplaces.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, when it comes to maybe, I guess, some of those uncertainties and question marks for people outside of some of these major employers who might be requiring things like that, I mean, if you shift to just kind of a small gym over here and you got the CDC saying you don't need to wear masks, squaring that with what you got from the WHO kind of saying you need to think about more local levels here, does it complicate the way that even local politicians would be communicating this message now, if you just kind of already come out and say, look, it's fine to take your mask off?

HOWARD FORMAN: Look, I think that if we have a locality in the United States that starts looking really bad, that a local politician is going to have to make a difficult move. Right now, almost universally, we have improvements across the board in our country. This is the right time to show people that we trust them to make good decisions for themselves to get vaccinated.

My own state, we have 92% of those over the age of 65 vaccinated. Most states are well over 80% in that category right now. We need to be making these moves because we need to show people that there is a return on being vaccinated, besides just their personal health. It also provides them with greater freedoms that they might not otherwise be able to avail themselves of.

AKIKO FUJITA: And doctor, I'm going back to when the vaccines were first rolled out. We heard a number of health experts, including Dr. Fauci, say 70% to 80% vaccination is the goal here. Does the CDC's new guidelines change that at all? Or is that still the threshold for you in terms of when we can say things are fully safe again? And when do you anticipate us reaching that?

HOWARD FORMAN: Right, so whether we get to actual herd immunity levels, I can't say right now. And remember, vaccination rates only tell us one component. There are a certain number of people that have previously had COVID who are not vaccinated and have immunity. We don't know what that number is right now, but it certainly adds to the number of people that are immune right now and adds to herd immunity. We also know that we're in a time of the year where there is a natural drift down in cases that we see in past years. We're going to have to pay a lot of attention to some of the hot spots from last summer, like the Sun Belt states, and have to be able to continue to notice that.

But if the trends continue in the way that we think, and if people don't become irresponsible, then we may be toward the end of this pandemic. In my opinion, even though others have said the sixth inning, I think we may be in the eighth or ninth inning. But we cannot give up the game right now because there's still time to lose it if we're not careful.

AKIKO FUJITA: Dr. Howard Forman, Yale School of Public Health, always good to get your insight. Thanks so much for joining us today.