NIH Director on easing indoor face mask guidelines: 'This is really good news' for vaccinated people


Dr. Francis Collins, physician-geneticist and director of the National Institutes of Health, joined KNX In-Depth Friday afternoon to talk about the recent guidelines CDC announced saying fully vaccinated people can now drop masks indoors.


Today two of the nation’s medical societies — the American Society of Transplantation and the American Academy of Pediatrics — and more than a dozen infectious disease physicians expressed concern the CDC's decision to ease back indoor face mask guidelines was premature, with so many millions of Americans still unvaccinated.

Fully vaccinated people are still supposed to wear a mask at busy places like airports, or on mass transit, but can take off masks in environments like schools or work. Now fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask at concerts or sporting events either.

"This is really good news even though there may be some complications and difficulties in figuring out how it applies in every situation. But gosh people let's just take a minute and say "wow,'" he said, adding the masks are off for those who are fully vaccinated in indoor and outdoor areas unless it's pretty crowded. "That's pretty liberating for those of us that are now able to do that...let's just smile for a minute."

According to the CDC website, "If you’ve been fully vaccinated: You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic. You can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance."

Collins went on to say that the CDC has a "tough job" because it has to make recommendations for the entire United States of America.

"It probably won't be completely uniform for a while because we still do have more disease in some places than others," he said.

"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 says.

Collins said everyone has to rethink and readjust to the CDC news.

He reminded the co-hosts that not everyone is vaccinated - these mask guidelines are for those who are fully immunized. He says in the U.S. at least 59 percent of adults have had one dose.

Will this CDC news help make hesitant people go get vaccinated?

Collins said, "I don't know the answer to that. I would think If I was somebody who was on the fence or in this wait and see mode and now this is happening and I can appreciate that people, who do have full immunization, are running around and saying 'I'm free at last!' That I want to feel that way too and decide 'ok I have waited long enough. I am going to roll up my sleeves and I am going to join those the folks who are part of the solution.' I am hoping some of that is going on. For those who are deeply resistant, who have not been wearing masks anyway, they may blow this thing off and that is a terrible tragedy because they will continue to be the folks at risk themselves of getting sick, maybe very sick, and maybe even dying of the disease at a time when we could have it over with."

When it comes to international COVID cases and vaccination rates, and what's happening in India and South America, Collins said, "We should worry about that in a self-interested way. The virus isn't really gone until it's gone everywhere."

He added new variants can appear in other parts of the world and there is the worry that some of those variants eventually may not respond to the current vaccines.

Meanwhile, on Thursday President Joe Biden said it was a great day for America.

“If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask," he said in a KCBS story, summarizing the new guidance and encouraging more Americans to roll up their sleeves. “Get vaccinated — or wear a mask until you do.”

After the CDC's updated outdoor guidelines last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the country was headed in the right direction.

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