The Infectious Diseases Society of America on Monday issued a warning for America.
Four days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance, relaxing its stance on mask-wearing in public for fully vaccinated people, and amid confusion among the general public as to the rules, the organization said it supports the CDC’s recommendations, but cautioned, “The CDC recommendations should not send the message that the pandemic is over.”
“We also emphasize that the recommendations make no change to mask-wearing guidance in health care settings, schools and public high-traffic areas including airports, as well as on airplanes, buses and other forms of public transportation,” it said. “Less than half of the U.S. population is fully immunized. Increased vaccinations will be necessary to control and finally end the pandemic.”
The CDC issued new guidance last Thursday. “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, said in a video statement. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”
The announcement took many health professionals by surprise: According to a New York Times survey, 29% of epidemiologists surveyed thought people would be wearing masks in public spaces for at least another year, while 26% said they believed people would do so for another year, and 26% said they thought mask wearing would continue in some form from now on.
The surprise change in the CDC’s mask guidelines, which do not have to be adopted by states, comes just over a year since the CDC said everyone should wear masks. In April 2020, the Trump administration and the CDC reversed their policies on face masks, and said all Americans should wear cloth face coverings and not — as officials previously said — just medical workers.
The expectation of herd immunity is not entirely a realistic one given the number of people who will not get vaccinated due to fears about side effects or for other political and ideological reasons, experts say. The government continues the rollout of vaccines from Johnson & Johnson
In the U.S., 37% of the total population is fully vaccinated and more than 47.3% have received at least one dose as of Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. President Joe Biden said earlier this month that he is aiming to have 70% of adults in the U.S. have at least one vaccine dose by July 4, up from 58% currently.
IDSA, made up of 12,000 physicians, scientists and public-health experts, said, “Additional guidance is needed to clarify safe interactions in public spaces and workplaces when vaccination status is unknown,” adding, “The new recommendations increase the importance of accelerated and innovative efforts to reach under-served populations.”
“If vaccination rates do not increase substantially and more dangerous variants continue to spread, transmission may increase, necessitating stricter masking and distancing policies,” the organization said. “Continued vaccination nationwide remains essential to avoiding resurgence of the virus in the U.S., and acceleration of vaccination worldwide is a humanitarian imperative.”