JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – No mask? No problem, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But only for those who are vaccinated against COVID-19.
The CDC announced Thursday that those who are fully vaccinated can ditch the masks when indoors in most instances, but are still encouraged to wear them when social distancing is out of the question.
Fully vaccinated means two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after getting the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The reaction to the news in the Tri-Cities was overwhelmingly positive.
“I think it is a very positive and uplifting announcement by the CDC regarding people who are fully vaccinated, they can resume their pre-pandemic activities, if they are fully vaccinated indoors or outdoors. So I think we, we are excited. And of course, we hope that it serves as an incentive for people who are right on the fence about getting vaccinated,” Dr. Amit Vashist, Ballad Health chief clinical officer said.
Some said they saw this as the light at the end of the tunnel, but some local health experts warned that this announcement simply means the choice between getting vaccinated or wearing a mask.
“I think that there will always be that segment of people so no amount of announcement or evidence-based research you put out to them, they still will be on the side of resisting what science has to offer, what vaccines have to offer, but our hope is that the vast majority of people will pay heed to what the science says and what the evidence exists, which is threefold, which is number one, the vaccines are safe. Number two, they’re effective. And number three, your life changes if you choose to get a vaccine,” Vashist added.
Some locals told News Channel 11 they are concerned with how the “fully vaccinated” caveat will be enforced.
“If you’re fully vaccinated, and if you can enforce that. And then I think it’s a good step forward because everyone’s concerned about people’s mental health and the ability to socialize and get back to ‘normal life.’ But the problem is going to be how do you enforce that,” Matt Lazari said.
Lazari and his family recently moved to Johnson City.
“That’s where it gets tricky about the enforcement component of it, you can’t deliberately ask people if they are. One, they could lie, and two, probably infringement on their privacy, but it’s people can just say that they are go back to normal life and then that incentive to actually get vaccinated goes away,” he added.
In an era of scientific misinformation spread on social media, Johnson City resident John McCord told News Channel 11 the CDC announcement is a relief.
“My first thought is this is exciting, right, I’m glad to know that we’re at a light to the end of the tunnel right and it’s, it’s nice that it’s from the CDC, right, I mean, there’s just been so many opinions and disinformation, that it’s it’s good that we’re coming from, kind of one perspective from the CDC saying, ‘hey, we’re almost at the end of this’ and it’s nice to be near the end, to where we don’t have to mask up anymore but you know I think it’s still good for us all to be cautious,” McCord said.
He added that those who remain unvaccinated should at the very least find their scientific information from a credible source.
“You know I think everybody just needs to make up their own mind based off of actually true information, not what will get purported as information a lot so, honestly, I think it’s just up to the person and their own convictions/their own understanding of what’s true right and hopefully that is informed opinion on what’s actually scientifically true rather than what gets reported as fact a lot so I don’t know as far as incentives go how people just do what is, what their own decision is based upon what’s actually true,” he said.
“I’m glad that we’re almost through this.”
Nevertheless, health experts maintain that the vaccine is the only way to return to pre-pandemic life.
“I think there is more research that needs to be done to answer the question in vaccines are fully effective against variance. The preliminary data so far, indicates that all these vaccines do have a good amount of immunity against the variants. So, by all means whatever vaccine is available to people who have not been vaccinated, please go and get that that will protect you, to some extent, against the answer as well. The other important thing about variants is variants, the COVID-19 virus is a very opportunistic virus, it is preying on human bodies that are not vaccinated. So the quicker we are able to get many more human beings and humanity vaccinated, the lesser the chance for the virus to go from one human being to another and mutate itself and make itself more resistant to treatment,” Dr. Vashist added.
With variants popping up across the Tri-Cities, health experts said the vaccines currently available do offer protection to some degree, but if you are unvaccinated, they urge that you continue to wear a mask when around others to keep that spread low.
The CDC added that the new guidance was based on a sharp reduction in cases, expansion of vaccines to younger people and vaccine efficacy against coronavirus variants. Dr. Vashist agreed.
“The cases have dropped by what 1/3 over the past couple of weeks. On top of that, as you said Pfizer got an emergency use authorization to vaccinate the adolescents between 12 to 16 years of age, who are now eligible to get the vaccine, and I must add that one of those adolescents was my son this afternoon, who very excitedly went and got his COVID-19 shot,” he said.
“So, overall, that is a very positive development and I think the announcement by CDC over with, coupled with a 12 to 16-year-old vaccination, emergency use authorization that has been granted by FDA should spur us to vaccinate as many members as possible in the community,” he said.