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Experts Divided on the New CDC Guidelines

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The State of California will continue to require masks until June 15, more than a month longer than the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation. The announcement has created a divide between experts and officials throughout the state. 

The CDC updated their recommendations for fully vaccinated people on May 13. According to the newly released guidelines, fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks. However, the CDC still recommends travelers to wear masks on airplanes, trains and highly populated areas like hospitals and prisons. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California will remove the mask mandate on June 15, which is also when the state’s economy is expected to fully reopen. In the meantime, Newsom plans to increase vaccinations and maintain masking to prevent hospitalizations. 

“With more than 20 million vaccines administered across the state, it is time to turn the page on our tier system and begin looking to fully reopen California’s economy,” Newsom said in a released statement. “We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic. We will need to remain vigilant, and continue the practices that got us here — wearing masks and getting vaccinated — but the light at the end of the tunnel has never been brighter.”

Newsom and state health officials plan to use the time before the mask expiration to create policies that will guide businesses in the verification of customer and employee vaccinations.

“We know that this announcement is already triggering good questions about exactly the issue you’re raising. We do plan to continue to work with business sector employers throughout the state on how this can be done to ensure those without the masks are indeed vaccinated,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in an interview with Voice of OC

Ghaly said that the June 15 expiration date could motivate Californians to get vaccinated. 

“In order to take the next step, we must continue to do our part to keep this momentum moving in the right direction, and that means continuing to wear a mask and ensuring everyone who is eligible gets the vaccine,” Ghaly said in a statement released by the office of Gov. Newsom. 

The CDC guidelines have since been endorsed by President Joe Biden who was seen speaking at the White House Rose Garden maskless shortly after the announcement was released

OC Board of Supervisors Andrew Do and Don Wagner have called upon California to forego the June 15 deadline and adhere to new CDC guidelines now. They argue that citizens have acted responsibly throughout the pandemic and deserve the opportunity to follow CDC’s new guidelines. 

“Now, the State must follow the science and recognize Orange County’s success by lifting the mask mandate for residents who have followed the government’s advice and got vaccinated,” Do said in a released statement

LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger has also advocated for California to adhere to the new guidance from the CDC. 

“While we still want to keep our communities safe, I am encouraged by the new guidance from the CDC and believe that the state and Los Angeles County should immediately align with the new federal recommendations,” Barger said in a letter to Newsom. 

The guidelines released by the CDC have been widely adopted in states across the nation. As of May 21, 31 states have rolled back their mask mandates. Within those states, businesses like Costco, Starbucks and Trader Joe’s have begun eliminating mask requirements. 

COVID-19 cases have continued to decrease as more people receive vaccinations. As of May 26, 55.6% of Californians have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 41.7% of Californians fully vaccinated. However, only 39.5% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated as of May 22. 

“We aren’t done yet, we’re still losing too many Americans because we have too many unvaccinated people. We have to get to 70% of adults started on vaccinations by July the Fourth. We have to take this pandemic — tackle it. Not just here but overseas as well, to truly be safe in the long run. There’s still more work ahead. But I have said many times, as tough as this pandemic has been, we will get through it,” Biden said in the press statement at the White House Rose Garden. 


Amy Duong is a City News Apprentice. She can be reached at amynd@uci.edu.