The CDC has updated its guidelines to say that fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear masks most of the time. CBS News' Skyler Henry reports on the changes, and Dr. Julie Morita, the executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, joins CBSN's Tanya Rivero to discuss what this means for kids who are not yet eligible for vaccination.
TANYA RIVERO: Some states are now lifting mask mandates after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance, saying fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors most of the time. As for businesses, Trader Joe's is one of the first stores to drop its mask mandate. The grocery chain says they encourage customers to follow the guidance of health officials and, because of CDC guidelines, fully vaccinated customers are no longer required to wear a mask when shopping. You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your final shot.
Now, there are some exceptions. The CDC says that you will still need a mask when traveling on public transportation or if federal, state, or local rules require it. This includes businesses, workplaces, and more. The CDC also advises if you have an immune condition, you should check with your doctor before deciding to go without the face mask. And if you are displaying symptoms, you should put that mask back on. The Biden administration is hoping this new guidance could encourage those who have not yet been vaccinated to get their shots. CBS News' Skyler Henry reports from the White House.
SKYLER HENRY: For many, the CDC's new guidance on mask wearing for vaccinated people is a breath of fresh air.
- It's so freeing, especially coming right when the weather is getting nice and warm. It's perfect.
SKYLER HENRY: Under the new recommendations, fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks or socially distance indoors or outdoors, except on airlines, public transportation, and in hospitals, doctors offices, nursing homes, prisons, and homeless shelters. The head of the CDC tells CBS News the declining number of new coronavirus cases and effective vaccines factored into the decision.
ROCHELLE WALENSKY: If you're vaccinated, you're safe and protected from getting COVID-19 and you really have a very low risk of transmitting to other people.
SKYLER HENRY: At a Rose Garden event Thursday, President Biden stressed unvaccinated individuals who can still spread the virus must still wear masks.
JOE BIDEN: Get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do.
SKYLER HENRY: It's still largely up to states, cities, and individual businesses to change their mask requirements. Many states have said they will review the CDC's new guidance before lifting any restrictions. The updated recommendations came the same day the New York Yankees announced its shortstop has become the first player and eighth member of the team staff to test positive for the virus after being fully vaccinated. The CDC says cases like those have a low risk of disease transmission.
ROCHELLE WALENSKY: What we're seeing about those infections is that they tend to have a lower amount of virus. They tend to be asymptomatic. They tend to be mild. And we believe that that lower amount of virus really means that they can't give it to anybody else.
SKYLER HENRY: Six of the staff members and coaches who tested positive are asymptomatic and are in quarantine. Skyler Henry, CBS News, the White House.
TANYA RIVERO: For more on this, I want to bring in Dr. Julie Morita. She is the executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a former member of the Biden administration's COVID-19 advisory board and a pediatrician. Dr. Morita, welcome. So great to have you with us. So of course, right now we know that only children 12 and older are eligible for the vaccine, the Pfizer shot. So what does this mean for children younger than 12 years old, that they need to continue wearing a mask?
JULIE MORITA: Hi, Tanya. Nice to see you again. Well this is really great news in general for the population that people who are vaccinated don't have to wear a mask indoors or outdoors in most situations. But you're right. There are still populations within the United States who are not able to get vaccinated, and that includes our younger children. And so for those children, it's important that they continue to wear a mask.
I think it's critical that what we know is that the reason that CDC made these recommendations or the change in recommendations was because the rates of disease are lower. We know people who are vaccinated are not likely to get sick. They're protected from COVID infections. And we also know that people who are vaccinated, there's more and more evidence to say that they're not able to transmit the infection to other people. And so children who remain unvaccinated still are at risk for getting sick. And so we need to be careful with them and continue to encourage them to wear their masks.
TANYA RIVERO: Do you think that this new guidance will encourage more people to get vaccinated or do you think that those who are really adamant about not getting vaccinated might just take off their mask anyway and say they've been vaccinated?
JULIE MORITA: I think it's clear that the reasons people are choosing not to get vaccinated are why-- it's not all the same reasons. And there are some people who have deep seated concerns about the vaccines or about trusting the government and have chosen not to get vaccinated, but there's also some people who are kind of waiting to see what would happen with the vaccines.
And now we have had millions and millions of people who have been vaccinated safely, and we know the vaccines are effective. And we now know that we can do these things that we've been holding off on for so long. So I think it will be an incentive for people who are maybe sitting on the fence and not quite sure to actually go get vaccinated. And I think the reasons to get vaccinated are clear. We'll be safer ourselves. We won't be able to transmit the disease to other people. And that we can actually return to more normal life. Those are all good reasons to get vaccinated.
TANYA RIVERO: It's all great news. And of course, there are still a lot of questions that remain with the new guidance how long it will take to trickle down from the federal level to the state level to the local level. And of course, when it comes to walking down the street and going into that boutique or cafe, those are still private businesses that have the right to set standards, correct, as to whether their customers should be wearing masks or not, right?
JOE BIDEN: So I think what this does is the CDC guidance is guidance. They make recommendations based on the best available science. And what they're saying is that people who are vaccinated are protected. And then it's up to states and locals and businesses to decide, are they going to change their policies or not.
And they know what CDC is saying at this point but there may be some businesses, there maybe some states or locals who have high disease rates or have high rates of people who are not vaccinated. And they may choose not to take away their mask mandate or may continue to encourage people to wear a mask. And so it's guidance that CDC issues, and it's up to really states and locals and businesses to really determine what they want to do and what they'll actually require.
TANYA RIVERO: Right. And of course, there are all of those exceptions on the federal level and public transportation and medical facilities and prisons, et cetera. Those remain with the mask mandate in place, correct?
JOE BIDEN: That's correct.
TANYA RIVERO: All right. Well Dr. Julie Morita, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate your insight, as always.
JULIE MORITA: Yeah. Thank you. Nice seeing you again.