Washington | Mask or not mask? The US health authorities ’lifting of the recommendation to wear masks for people vaccinated against Covid-19 caught by surprise local officials, experts and companies in the US, causing heated controversy and confusion in the field on Friday.
Even in Congress, brawls broke out, and some elected officials came under pressure to remove their masks, despite Joe Biden’s calls the day before that those who prefer to keep her are “treated with kindness and respect.”
The directive, simple at first glance, did not fail to raise a complex set of questions, in a country that had long been the epicenter of the epidemic and where the debate about the mask, at the time of its circulation there more than a year, had become a political issue.
Because the recommendations announced Thursday by the country’s main federal public health agency (CDC) are not binding: in addition to not applying to transport and hospitals, authorities determine that they are invalid if the mask remains “required by federal and state, or local laws and regulations.” Or “Store and Business Guidelines”.
A situation that has left local employers and decision-makers destitute, forced to choose between scientific recommendations and Americans’ fears are still shaken by the repercussions of the virus.
“Before, masks were important and suddenly they didn’t exist,” said Evan Mata, 47, who works for a tourism company in New York. “My fear is, how will you verify that people are fully vaccinated or not?” I think there are many people who will not use the mask anymore even if they are not vaccinated. “
Indeed, there are few means of verification: in the United States, it is clear that a national “health passport” has been excluded.
A mixture of rules
In New York but also in Washington, officials have smartly indicated that they are “studying” the new recommendations.
The symbol of this embarrassment, First Lady Jill Biden, who took off her mask the day before visiting the vaccination center (“We feel completely naked!”, She said, wore the famous protection at a museum in the capital on Thursday.
Elsewhere, tinkering continues: In Minnesota and Pennsylvania, existing commitments were instantly updated. Virginia and Maryland finally announced that they will comply on Saturday. In Connecticut, the new rule won’t take effect until next week.
In many places, the recommendation won’t change much in the end: in Texas, the obligation to wear a mask was lifted in March, for example … including unvaccinated people.
The question also arose for supermarkets, many of which made a commitment to wearing masks for all of their customers.
After a day of reflection, both Trader Joe’s and premier US retailer, Walmart, announced that they were complying with the new recommendations. On the contrary, Aldi announced the maintenance of the status quo.
Other companies remained hesitant: At GM plants, the tough mask was still the time to “study” the new directives.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations are confusing,” the UFCW Distribution Association complained. Often the primary workers are exposed to individuals who have not been vaccinated and refuse to wear masks. (…) Are they supposed to become vaccination police officers?
However, most scientists, who long considered the health recommendations too cautious, praised the new announcements.
Les vaccins sont efficaces contre les variants, permettent de réduire drastiquement la possibilité même d’être infecté (et pas seulement de développer des symptômes) et, dans les rares cas où la maladie se déclenche malgré tout, la charge virale rédu, estlu studies.
So it shows that vaccinated people (roughly 36% of the population in the United States) do not put themselves or others at risk when they are not wearing masks. Not to mention, daily cases have fallen sharply at the national level.
Moreover, in a country where the supply of vaccines now exceeds demand, the authorities hope to encourage the hesitant decision-making.
However, some experts have expressed reservations, especially for areas where transmission rates remain high: epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers would prefer to see this announcement locally linked to a case of “less than 5 cases per 100,000 people per day”.
“Give people time to get organized,” Linsey Marr, a specialist in moving viruses through the air, lamented.