These 6 States Won't Follow the CDC's New Mask Guidance Immediately
State leaders are taking the new rules under careful consideration.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Rochelle Walensky, MD, revealed some major news at a White House COVID-19 Response Team press briefing on May 13: Fully vaccinated adults no longer need to wear masks or social distance in gatherings of any size, indoors or outdoors. "We have all longed for this moment. If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic," she announced. Walensky explained the decision was made "based on the downward trajectory of cases," scientific data on COVID vaccine performance in the real world, and increased research on how the virus tends to spread from vaccinated people. And although the news was celebrated among countless people across the U.S., including President Joe Biden who called Thursday a "great day for America," not everyone will be rushing to follow the new mask guidance from the CDC just yet. In fact, state officials in California, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Virginia are taking the guidelines under careful consideration before putting them into practice.
The CDC's new guidelines are just that—guidance—meaning state officials don't necessarily need to adopt them. After Walensky revealed the news, Barbara Ferrer, PhD, Los Angeles County Public Health Director, said the state of California and Los Angeles County will be conducting a review of the new CDC advice "to make sensible adjustments to the orders that are currently in place," The New York Times reported. Just one day before the CDC announcement, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the mask mandates in his state will be lifted on June 15, with the exception of large indoor convention events. "That world looks a lot like the world we entered into before the pandemic. We're not wearing face coverings, we're not restricted," he told Los Angeles station KTTV. (It's worth noting that the CDC did say you no longer need masks at a large indoor gathering like a concert even if you're vaccinated.)
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also revealed the changes won't be made immediately in his state. "In New York, we have always relied on the facts and the science to guide us throughout the worst of this pandemic and in our successful reopening," Cuomo said in a statement. "We have received the newly revised guidance from the CDC regarding mask wearing and social distancing for those with vaccinations and are reviewing them." Cuomo, Howard Zucker, MD, Commissioner of Health for New York State, and "partners and health experts in surrounding states" are in the process of looking over the guidelines.
Vaccinated residents or visitors of New Jersey also won't be living a completely mask-free life just yet. The Garden State's Gov. Phil Murphy is taking a deeper look into the new masking requirements, with the help of the state's Department of Health.
Meanwhile, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's office made a similar announcement about state health officials reviewing the new rules on May 13. "The CDC announcement today on masks shows the important benefits of vaccinations," Cooper's press secretary Dory MacMillan said in a statement to a local Fox affiliate. She explained that although the Tar Heel State removed the outdoor mask mandate two weeks ago, the indoor mask rules still remain in effect.
The press secretary for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker also clarified how the new CDC guidelines will affect the state. "For now, there won't be any change to the Bay State's mask order. But the administration will update its restrictions soon," Baker's press secretary Sarah Finlaw said in a statement, according to NBC Boston.
Additionally, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam won't be implementing the new CDC guidelines right away. A spokesperson from Northam's office told local ABC News affiliate 8News the state is currently "in the process of aligning state guidance with federal policy," but noted it was a "big shift."
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During Walensky's announcement, she did address the possibility that things could "get worse," which would call for a revision to mask guidelines. But she didn't seem too concerned. "We know that the more people are vaccinated, the less cases we will have and the less chance of a new spike or additional variant emerging," she added. Walensky noted the U.S-approved vaccines are 100 percent effective in keeping people out of the hospital and preventing death from COVID, though asymptomatic cases or mild ones are rare, but possible.
Still, she knows many people will continue to mask up in public. "We have been doing this for 15 months at this point and not everybody's going to want to shed their masks immediately. It's going to take us a little bit of time to readjust," she said.
And there's one place people across the country are still required to wear a face covering. "You will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations," the CDC notes in its update.