By Zeynep Tufekci
Dr. Tufekci is a contributing Opinion writer who has extensively examined the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to say it did not believe that fully vaccinated people needed to wear masks or distance indoors or out, with a few exceptions, like when using public transportation.
It’s difficult for officials to issue rules as conditions evolve and uncertainty continues. So I hesitate to question the agency’s approach. But it’s not clear whether it was responding to scientific evidence or public clamor to lift state and local mandates, which the C.D.C. said could remain in place.
It might have been better to have kept up indoor mask mandates to help suppress the virus for maybe as little as a few more weeks.
The C.D.C. could have set metrics to measure such progress, saying that guidelines would be maintained until the number of cases or the number vaccinations reached a certain level, determined by epidemiologists.
And they could be explicit about the data on transmission risks. Right now, it just says “COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of people spreading COVID-19.” That’s too vague.
The agency could say that the fully vaccinated need not worry about personal risk or transmitting the virus in a private setting. But rules for behavior in public still need to stay in place indoors to protect the unvaccinated and the immunocompromised, because we’re all in this together.
Only about two weeks ago, the C.D.C. said that fully vaccinated people should still wear masks, even outdoors, if they were around crowds. Now we are told they need not even distance themselves in most settings, even indoors.
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