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In the small town of Oxford, Nebraska, the school district left its mask mandate last month in a fairly straightforward decision: the cases dropped drastically and it didn’t bother local officials that their move take the Centers into account. of Disease Control and Prevention. guidelines.
Those guidelines on federal masks didn’t seem to fit the local conditions in the city of about 800 people where almost no one wears a mask.
“We haven’t paid much attention to what’s happening at the federal level, mostly to what’s coming out across the state,” South Valley Superintendent Bryce Jorgensen said. “You can’t compare Chicago to Oxford, Nebraska. Things are different.”
On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its guidelines on wearing outdoor masks, saying fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to cover their faces unless they are in a great multitude of strangers. And those who are not vaccinated can also go out without masks in some situations.
For most of last year, the CDC had advised Americans to wear outdoor masks if they are about 6 feet apart.
The decision marked the U.S. government’s last step toward normalcy, but it came as much of the country had already gone beyond mask rules. The CDC essentially supported what many Americans have already been doing.
The same day the CDC updated its guidelines, the Louisiana governor partially lifted the state’s mask mandate, the first Democratic governor to make that move during Joe Biden’s presidency. Elsewhere, local government leaders have been removing mask rules, and in many states face masks are rare on the inside, let alone on the outside.
In Montgomery, Alabama, 73-year-old Judy Adams said she hadn’t worn a mask outside since the early days of the pandemic a year ago and only put them inside when stores require it. Alabama had a state mask mandate until earlier this month, when the governor let it expire.
“I think it’s ridiculous, because it doesn’t help,” he said about the rules of the mask. “It’s about control and fear. It’s nothing more than control and fear.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the federal government has struggled to achieve consistency in public health measures from one state to another. The CDC has issued guidelines on masks, social distancing, travel and other activities, but it is up to the rulers to know if they will adhere to the measures. Some states never had mask warrants, while others still have them in books.
“Today, I hope, is a day when we can take a step back to the normalcy of yesteryear,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday. “Over the last year, we’ve spent a lot of time telling Americans what you can’t do. Today I’m going to tell you some of the things you can do if you’re completely vaccinated.”
The CDC says that whether or not they are fully vaccinated, people should not wear masks outdoors when walking, biking, or running alone or with members of their household. An unvaccinated person can also go without a mask to a small outdoor meeting with fully vaccinated people.
But unvaccinated people, defined as those who have not yet received doses of the Pfizer or Modern vaccine or the unique Johnson & Johnson formula, should wear masks at small outdoor meetings that include other unvaccinated people, according to the CDC. They should also keep their face covered when dining at outdoor restaurants with friends from various homes.
And everyone, fully vaccinated or not, should continue to wear masks at crowded outdoor events, such as concerts or sporting events, according to the CDC.
The agency continues to recommend masks in covered public places, such as hairdressers, restaurants, shopping malls, gyms, museums and movie theaters, saying it is still the safest course even for vaccinated people.
The change comes as more than half of adults in the United States (approximately 140 million people) have received at least one dose of vaccine and more than a third have been completely vaccinated.
Walensky said the decision was driven by a growing number of vaccinations; decreases in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths of COVID-19; and research showing that less than 10% of documented cases of virus transmission occurred outdoors.
The new guide represents another carefully calibrated step on the path to normalcy following the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 570,000 people in the United States.
In Plano, Texas, Rob Webster, a 49-year-old church employee, said the new guidelines sound “reasonable,” but he has some reservations.
“My only concern is that there are so many people who want to change the system anyway,” said Webster, communications director at Custer Road United Methodist Church, which requires masks on church property, including outdoor youth group meetings.
“So I don’t know if I was around a group of people who weren’t wearing masks, are they really vaccinated? … It makes me maybe a little more fearful and less confident in the people around me.”
In the Nebraska school district, Superintendent Jorgensen said the district decided to eliminate its mask rule based on area and state conditions, which never had a statewide mask mandate.
The district saw a high risk of the virus last fall when statewide cases were at an all-time high, but there have been no cases in the district since January and fewer than a dozen cases had been reported in the state. two counties in the district when he made the decision.
Jorgensen said the district continues to be careful and will require students to be quarantined for 10 days if they test positive for the virus, but the mask’s mandate no longer seems necessary.
“It’s not that we’ve totally thrown him out the window. We keep a close eye on him and monitor every situation we can. But they seem a bit extreme,” Jorgensen said of the federal mask recommendations. “I think we have people here who can make good local decisions, so that’s why we did it the way we did it.”
Associated Press writer John Zenor contributed to this report. The AP’s Department of Science and Health is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.