PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — The CDC is relaxing some COVID-19 guidelines for fully vaccinated people, while local leaders are planning to consider the issue in the coming weeks.
The agency said fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask outside, except in crowded settings and venues.
“Generally for vaccinated people, outdoor activities without a mask are safe. However, we continue to recommend masking in crowded outdoor settings and venues such as packed stadiums and concerts, where there is decreased ability to maintain physical distance and where many unvaccinated people may also be present. We will continue to recommend this until widespread vaccination is achieved,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, said.
The change comes amid efforts to get more people to roll up their sleeves.
“What it says are those of us who have been vaccinated are gonna be able to get our lives back and really start to return to normal. And those that are sitting on the fence are going to have to suffer through until we reach herd immunity so there’s a good reason to get vaccinated,” said Thomas Unnasch, Ph.D., a distinguished university professor in USF’s College of Public Health.
The guidance came the same day the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners voted to extend their state of local emergency. That keeps in effect an ordinance requiring face coverings in public places.
People spent hours speaking out against masks ahead of the vote.
“Face masks have become a tool of hatred, they’re dividing people,” one person said.
“People will put them on if they want to but those of us who can’t or won’t let us just live the way we should,” another person told commissioners.
“This state of emergency is not about our health and safety it’s about a state and federal money grab,” said another.
Others wrote in letters in support of face coverings, including Mary Zuranski.
“The example I gave in my letter was I have earned the right to drive but I do not have the right to drive recklessly and that’s for the safety of everyone, not just myself, it’s for everyone,” she said. “And so for that reason, I feel like wearing masks for just a little bit longer until we get to a more acceptable level of the number of cases and the number of deaths, get it down so it’s not so horrible, we just need to be safe and protect one another for just a while longer.”
County commissioners are expected to consider repealing or amending the ordinance during its May 11 meeting.