Doctor with UVA Health weighs in on new CDC mask guidelines

New CDC guidelines relax mask-wearing rules for fully vaccinated individuals.
New CDC guidelines relax mask-wearing rules for fully vaccinated individuals.(WVIR)
Updated: Apr. 29, 2021 at 1:02 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - New guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention are giving us a glimpse of the future. UVA Health Director of Hospital Epidemiology Dr. Costi Sifri says the update may encourage more people to get their vaccination against COVID-19.

The guidelines from the CDC allow fully-vaccinated people to ditch the mask when outdoors with small groups of people. It also suggests that vaccinated people are safer doing things indoors with a mask, like going to the movies or to a salon.

“The vaccines - we can’t emphasize enough - are very very effective. That, coupled with the fact that transmission is less less likely outdoors than indoors, I think now, reasonably, makes the risk so low that masking isn’t required,” Dr. Sifri said.

Larger outdoor events, like sporting events or concerts, would still require fully-vaccinated people to wear a mask.

“If you’re in a place where you think that you are breathing somebody’s air, and that person you don’t know, you’re really close to them and you’re sort of sharing air, maybe that’s place where you should be wearing a mask,” Sifri said.

Dr. Sifri says the change is based in an ease in coronavirus cases and a jump in vaccinations. Almost half of the eligible population in Charlottesville and Albemarle County have gotten their second dose. COVID-19 cases in the Blue Ridge Health District are also down.

Sifri cautions that returning to normal will have to be slow: “The number of new cases is pretty similar to where we were at in September. In September, it didn’t feel like the pandemic was under control,” the doctor said. “It’s the process of easing off on the breaks, but doing it in a considerate way so that we don’t lose control of what we’ve worked so hard to gain.”

He is also encouraging folks to get vaccinated: “The most important, the most effective means of preventing COVID is to get vaccinated, and if you’re vaccinated and protected from this infection, then you’re able to, and this is reflected in these guidelines, you’re able to do a lot more with much much less concern of infection,” Sifri said.

It’s important to remember that you are only fully vaccinated two weeks after your second vaccine, or two weeks after a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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