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FAQs on new CDC mask guidance: What does it mean for Florida, Leon County?

Removing face mask
Posted at 12:51 PM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 12:59:39-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — ABC 27 compiled a list of a few of the questions you may have about what the CDC’s new stance on mask-wearing does and doesn't mean.

Does the new CDC guidance mean masks are not recommended anywhere?

The federal guidance is expansive: Fully vaccinated people, those who have received their final COVID-19 vaccination at least two weeks ago, no longer need to wear masks outdoors or in most indoor settings, with limits.

The CDC wasn't specific about masking in some settings, like schools.

Fully vaccinated people are still told to mask up when visiting health care facilities, flying, on public transit, and in places like homeless shelters, prisons or jails.

What does the new CDC guidance mean for local mask mandates?
The CDC advice does not override mask orders issued by states, counties or cities.

Why now?
COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been trending downward in the United States for weeks. About 37,000 cases are being identified each day, the fewest since September, and about 630 deaths are being announced daily, the lowest average since July.

The most significant change is the availability of vaccines.

Everyone age 16 and older have been eligible for a vaccine for weeks, and those ages 12 to 15 became eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week.

About 47 percent of people in the United States have received at least one vaccine dose, and appointments are readily available across most of the country, according to Pew Research. Some public health experts said they viewed the new mask guidance, in part, as an incentive to entice those who have not gotten shots: Getting vaccinated would mean no longer having to wear a mask.

What does all this mean for restaurants and stores?
The United Food and Commercial Workers union, representing thousands of grocery store workers, criticized the CDC for failing to consider how the new policy would affect workers who have to deal with customers who are not vaccinated.

In Leon County, masking can be mandated by private businesses and the County recommends them in government offices; however, Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order on May 3, 2021, making it illegal for local governments to require them if the state does not.

Mike Ferrara, who owns Cabos Island Grill & Bar, won't enforce masks on people who don't want to wear them. However, the only way he sees that working is if staff continues masking up.

"If they want to come in without a mask they can come in, and we'll just have to protect ourselves, said Ferrara.

Justine Spells, the CEO and co-owner of the Craft House said after speaking with her employees, they aren't comfortable with guests going mask-less.

They'll be asking customers to be patient as they make decisions for their safety.

"Please just be compliant and understanding or just choose not to go there," said Spells.

Leon County commission chair Rick Minor told ABC 27, businesses still have the right to have their own safety measure for the virus.

"If you're a business owner you still have the right and ability to have the masks sign at the front of your door and have any type of safety precautions that you deem fit," said Minor.

So how do you know if a stranger shopping or eating next to you is vaccinated?
You won’t.

About 36 percent of people in the United States are fully vaccinated, and there is no way to tell them apart from the 64 percent of people who are not.

People who receive a vaccine are issued a white paper card, but online scammers have sold forged versions of those.

The new guidance reopened discussions of so-called vaccine passports, which would certify someone’s vaccination status.

On April 2, 2021, Gov. DeSantis issued an executive order prohibiting vaccine passports in Florida.

What has the CDC’s guidance been on masks all along?
At the beginning of the pandemic, the CDC’s position was that most did not need to wear masks unless they were sick and coughing. At the time, there was limited understanding that the virus was airborne and could be transmitted by people who were asymptomatic.

By April 2020, the CDC urged all Americans to wear a mask when they left their homes.

The guidance kept changing throughout the pandemic. For example, the agency first said that wearing masks protected others, not the wearer.

By November, officials went a step further, saying masks benefited the people who wear them, in addition to those around them.

With vaccinations ramping up, the CDC began to loosen its guidance last month, advising that fully vaccinated people could remove their masks in many situations outdoors, where the virus spreads less easily.

Then on May 13, the CDC announced that the relaxed rules also applied indoors.

I’m vaccinated. What now?
You can start going out without a mask on your face if you want.

As for traveling, some local governments and businesses are likely to continue requiring masks, at least in the immediate future. If you ride the bus or train or are visiting a family member in a hospital or nursing home, you will still be expected to mask up.