In this case, it don’t matter if you are vaccinated or unvaccinated. You should be wearing a face mask when in any public indoor setting. That’s essentially what the newly updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on “Holiday Celebrations” is saying about everyone who is two years and older. Of course, when you are less than two years of age, you shouldn’t have a credit card, hold a license to drive a tractor, or have to wear a face mask as a Covid-19 precaution.
The guidance now says “Wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor settings if you are not fully vaccinated,” as opposed to over your chin, your butt, or your elbow. It also indicates that “Even those who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in communities with substantial to high transmission.”
Now you may point out that the latter sentence specifies “in communities with substantial to high transmission.” These days, good luck finding a community in the U.S. that doesn’t have “substantial to high transmission.” Take a look at the CDC Covid-19 Data Tracker’s “Level of Community Transmission of COVID-19, by State/Territory” map. You’ll find 46 states in the red, meaning that they have “high levels” of Covid-19 transmission. There are two ways that a state can land in the “high level” category. One is to have had at least 100 new reported Covid-19 cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days. The other way is to have at least 10% of the nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) performed be positive for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)
On the map, orange is the new “substantial.” This is the next highest level of Covid-19 transmission. Whereas, the U.S. was previously all red, there are now four states in this “substantial” category: California, Connecticut, Florida, and Hawaii. “Substantial” means that there have been 50 to 99 new reported Covid-19 cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days or 8% to 9.99% of the NAATs performed have been positive for the SARS-CoV-2.
A look at the CDC’s county transmission map does reveal some scattered counties that currently fall into the moderate-to-low Covid-19 transmission categories. Keep in mind that these distinctions are rather inexact. These designations rely solely on reported Covid-19 cases. So counties may vary in how much testing they are doing and what percentage of the actual cases are being reported. The bottom line is that the vast majority of the U.S. is red on the county map, even much of California and Florida.
This means that everyone who needs more than one candle on their birthday cake should be wearing a mask in any public indoor location. That’s whether you are celebrating Global Cat Day today, National Mole Day on October 23, or Halloween on October 31. In fact, it should apply every single day.
It should apply for Holidays and regular days next month, as well including the oddly specific National Pizza with the Works Except Anchovies Day on November 12 and Thanksgiving on November 25. Expect to maintain such precautions through December too.
The trouble is, these days, many people are going maskless in stores, bars, and other indoor locations. Lots of people ditched face mask wearing after mid-May, when the CDC said that fully vaccinated people could go maskless indoors. This ended up being a premature relaxation, which led to disappointment and a messy situation, as I described for Forbes previously. Not surprisingly, large numbers of unvaccinated people have gone maskless too. It turns out that the “honor system” doesn’t work. Shakira may claim that the hips don’t lie. But people most certainly can lie. Since the CDC came out with different guidance for vaccinated versus unvaccinated people without first installing a clear national system of verifying whether someone is vaccinated, many people have not been honest and upfront about their vaccination status and have even tried using fake Covid-19 Vaccination Record Cards.
The CDC “Holiday Celebrations” guidance included several other recommendations as well. Get vaccinated is one of them. The CDC says, “protect those not yet eligible for vaccination such as young children by getting yourself and other eligible people around them vaccinated.” This is to emphasize that getting a Covid-19 vaccine is not simply a “personal decision” as some politicians are trying to make it out to be. Claiming that it is just a “personal decision” would be like saying that your decision to wear clothes in public is a “personal decision.” No, you have to wear clothes in public in part because your butt and other people’s food and personal items need to have a long distance relationship. Similarly, your not getting vaccinated may increase your risk of catching and spreading the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Another recommendation from the CDC is to stay outdoors when you can as “outdoors is safer than indoors” and “avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.” Furthermore, the CDC warns that “if you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering.” This should be obvious since getting all of your friends sick is typically not something that will strengthen your relationship with them. Finally, the CDC urges you to “get tested if you have symptoms of Covid-19 or have a close contact with someone who has Covid-19.”
This last set of recommendations isn’t new. After all, it’s not as if the CDC has been saying “gravitate towards crowded, poorly ventilated spaces” or “it’s OK to host or attend a gathering if you are sick or have symptoms as long as the hors d’oeuvres are good” all along. But the everyone-wear-face-masks guidance may go counter to what you’ve been seeing in many indoor locations in recent months. Getting others to don face masks may be a challenge, especially with all the anti-mask political propaganda and misinformation going around.
The big question is how will public officials get more people to return to wearing face masks before the seasons and weather change. The concern is that the colder and drier air along with more activities moving indoors could increase transmission of the SARS-CoV-2. Without enough people vaccinated and without enough people maintaining other Covid-19 precautions such as face mask use, this could lead to yet another Winter surge in Covid-19 cases. And that could be bad for everyone, whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated