UPDATE: Despite new CDC guidance, Marion County mask mandate remains in effect

  • Comments
  • Print

In a move to send the country back toward pre-pandemic life, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday eased indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to safely stop wearing masks inside in most places.

However, Marion County’s mask mandate remains in place, local officials said. However, it will reviewed and the new federal guidelines taken into consideration.

The new federal guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters but will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for masks or social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.

“We have all longed for this moment — when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC.

The CDC will also no longer recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks outdoors in crowds. The announcement comes as the CDC and the Biden administration have faced pressure to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated people — people who are two weeks past their last required COVID-19 vaccine dose — in part to highlight the benefits of getting the shot.

Dr. Virginia Caine, director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department, agreed the CDC announcement underscores the importance of the vaccine in a return to normalcy.

“In Marion County, the outlook is good—but efforts to get more people vaccinated and reduce the impact of COVID-19 continue,” she said in a statement.

She said the health department will review the new CDC guidance and assess current local COVID-19 data and vaccination rates to make a recommendation to the City-County Council on the “continued path toward opening our community safely.”

Walensky announced the new guidance on Thursday afternoon at a White House briefing, saying the long-awaited change is thanks to millions of people getting vaccinated — and based on the latest science about how well those shots are working.

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities – large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing,” Walensky said. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

The easing guidance is likely to open the door to confusion, since there is no surefire way for businesses or others to distinguish between those fully vaccinated and those who are not.

President Joe Biden was set to highlight the new guidance Thursday afternoon in a speech from the White House.

The new guidance comes as the aggressive U.S. vaccination campaign begins to pay off. U.S. virus cases are at their lowest rate since September, deaths are at their lowest point since last April and the test positivity rate is at the lowest point since the pandemic began.

To date about 154 million Americans, more than 46% of the population, have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines and more than 117 million are fully vaccinated. The rate of new vaccinations has slowed in recent weeks, but with the authorization Wednesday of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, a new burst of doses is expected in the coming days.

Just two weeks ago, the CDC recommended that fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks indoors in all settings and outdoors in large crowds.

During a virtual meeting Tuesday on vaccinations with a bipartisan group of governors, Biden appeared to acknowledge that his administration had to do more to model the benefits of vaccination.

“I would like to say that we have fully vaccinated people; we should start acting like it,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, told Biden. “And that’s a big motivation get the unvaccinated to want to to get vaccinated.”

“Good point,” Biden responded. He added, “We’re going to be moving on that in the next little bit.”

Walensky said the evidence from the U.S. and Israel shows the vaccines are as strongly protective in real-world use as they were in earlier studies, and that so far they continue to work even though some worrying mutated versions of the virus are spreading.

The more people continue to get vaccinated, the faster infections will drop — and the harder it will be for the virus to mutate enough to escape vaccines, she stressed, urging everyone 12 and older who’s not yet vaccinated to sign up.

And while some people still get COVID-19 despite vaccination, Walensky said that’s rare and cited evidence that those infections tend to be milder, shorter and harder to spread to others. If someone who’s vaccinated does develop COVID-19 symptoms, they should immediately put their mask back on and get tested, she said.

There are some caveats. Walensky encouraged people who have weak immune systems, such as from organ transplants or cancer treatment, to talk with their doctors before shedding their masks. That’s because of continued uncertainty about whether the vaccines can rev up a weakened immune system as well as they do normal, healthy ones.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

13 thoughts on “UPDATE: Despite new CDC guidance, Marion County mask mandate remains in effect

    1. Hmmm…. I guess 500,000 dead people couldn’t really said to be afraid anymore either?

    2. “Dr Evil air quotes” : 500,000 people 😉…

      This is based on non transparent and “suspected COVID” mortality data.

      2020: Pneumonia mostly gone, influenza gone, heart issues solved!

    3. JCB, how do you explain the excess mortality rate? Far more people died in the U.S. from March 2020 through May 3, 2021 than would be expected to occur in a similar time period based on recent historic data. Did every suddenly start having more frequent heart attacks and contracting pneumonia during that period? If so, what would be the reason for that?

      Look, I get it, people like you who deny science, reality, truth, etc., don’t care and will continue to cling to your whack-a-doodle beliefs (or at least spout nonsense, even if you don’t entirely believe it), but at least try to make sense if you are going to post something. I know people who got very sick from Covid, and I know people who died from it, and it is quite real. For example, my great-aunt was in good health and very happy and out-going, but her son with whom she lived, like you, thought the coronavirus was a largely “made up” disease. He contracted Covid and got extremely ill for well over a month, and his mother, my great-aunt, got infected from him since they lived together and died from it. But, I guess all that is just “Dr. Evil” air quotes? Right? I would say let people believe and do what they want, provided that these same people were the only ones to bear the consequences of their misguided beliefs and actions.

    4. Christopher B:

      Most in healthcare and those who are data driven (true science, not politicized) just want transparency. There has been financial incentives for HCPs to chart COVID as reimbursement is increased even for suspected cases. Further, the CDC and John Hopkins for their matter, include deaths which COVID “may have been present” but there are other true underlying causes/comorbidities.

      2 weeks ago; CDC wear a mask even if vaccinated. Wind blows another direction, Fauci and CDC change to don’t wear a mask, no more social distancing etc overnight. No “science” to support that just anecdotes.

      Now, the CDC just announced that they will not count any positive COVID test in a vaccinated person unless they are hospitalized or die.

      This is the direct falsification of data in an attempt to prove efficacy of these treatments by changing how cases are counted.

      For over a year and a half every positive test was a case to force us into lockdowns and masks.

      This is corrupt and let’s just say it… evil.

    5. JCB, you conveniently neglected to answer Christopher B’s question. How to you explain the excess number of dead Americans between March 2020 and present day compared to what would be expected typically in that time frame? I’m genuinely curious if you have an answer…

    6. JCB, I am glad to see Wesley pointed out that you conveniently side-stepped my question about the very large number of excess deaths during the pandemic period.

      If you believe something else suddenly started killing a lot of people and causing far more deaths above the typical mortality rate, please explain specifically WHAT you think has been killing people and WHY it suddenly started causing far more deaths to occur than would typically occur over a similar period of time. And, I suppose in countries like India where their hospitals are overwhelmed and their healthcare system is collapsing, it is all suddenly just happening for no reason?

      For someone who claims to support transparency, you should be direct and specific in your responses.

      And, yes, CDC guidance is updated as new medical studies and real world data comes in. When the country is faced with a novel infectious disease and there is the possibility of death or serious illness; of course, the health safety guidance is going to err on the side of caution until and if the evidence supports changing the guidance. What you call bending to the way the “wind blows” is instead cautious and thoughtful policy that is adjusted as new evidence comes in to support adjusting it.

    7. For Wesley and Christopher B., there are more deaths than usual for the time period mentioned, I don’t know of anyone that denies that. At issue is how the deaths are/were getting classified, as in virtually no deaths from influenza, heart disease, etc. for the past year. You had hospitals incentivized to classify illness as Covid, and then once it became politicized and the MSM kicked in, the fear mongering rapidly escalated. Remember the infamous “co-morbidities” reasoning where someone who had had CPD for years died but Covid was ruled as the primary reason? We have not been “following the science”, (remember that catch phrase when it was used as justification to keep things shut down?) and now it’s not used at all. At some point and time, there will be a review and an accurate counting of the deaths and we will get an accurate reading on how deadly Covid really was. Does that answer your question?

    8. No Rod, you still failed at answering the question. Even if you think the deaths were “misclassified”, it still doesn’t explain why there was a significant increase in deaths. The only logical explanation is that covid-19 contributed to those deaths. I have Asthma that’s completely under control. If I had gotten covid-19 and died, my cause of death wouldn’t be Asthma, it’d be covid-19. Does that clarify things for you?

  1. I think this is long overdue. However, I wonder how this will roll out. My assumption is, it’ll just be on the honor system if you’ve had your vaccine or not. Which will very quickly mean that absolutely no one will wear their mask. I doubt groceries, gas stations, etc will ask people if they have had their shots, and I can’t imagine anyone being expected to carry their shot record everywhere they go.

    1. Quote: I can’t imagine anyone being expected to carry their shot record everywhere they go.

      Be mindful of the “Big Brother” [who knows best in all things] brigade now in Washington DC, William…

    2. Give it up, Bob. You have to have vaccines to go to school, get jobs in medical professions, live normal lives. Another IBJ comment troll. I hope your family gets vaccinated- for your sake.

    3. I’m with Bob on this one. This vaccinated person will never show proof and go down that road. Nate, their are people I know that cannot get vaccinated for health reasons or they already had COVID and are being advised not to get vaccinated at this time. You just can’t make it mandatory like you would like. If your vaccinated and want to wear a mask forever then go ahead, but leave the rest of us alone.