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Doctors answer your questions as CDC says vaccinated people don’t need masks

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MADISON (WKOW) — New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday means people who are fully vaccinated can take their masks off.

The CDC says fully-vaccinated people don’t need to wear face coverings outdoors and in most indoor settings. There are exceptions in places like buses, airports and hospitals.

People who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks.

Source: CDC

“Fully vaccinated” means people must have completed both vaccine doses, then waited two weeks — or, if using the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine, taken the shot and waited four weeks.

“This is sort of what we’ve been working towards,” said Dr. Roopa Shah with SSM Health. “We’ve been trying to vaccinate folks. This is the benefit. This is the perk that you get for being fully vaccinated.”

Taking off the mask is not easy after a year of wearing it everywhere — and experiencing the benefits of protection from COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.

“I think I’m going to be one of those people — when I get on an airplane, I’m always going to wear a mask,” Dr. Shah said. “Just knowing how well it can protect you. Why not, right?”

Dr. Nasia Safdar with UW Health said that while masks may no longer be needed to protect vaccinated people from the coronavirus, she’s hoping people will consider them as we head into the fall and winter months.

“When it’s time for, you know, respiratory virus season and influenza is circulating, I hope that a lot more people will wear their masks,” she said.

Many viewers on the 27 News Facebook page said they were skeptical of the CDC’s new guidance.

Both Drs. Shah and Safdar said people should do whatever makes them feel comfortable.

There is a line where that comfort is a bit excessive, though, with the new CDC guidance.

“Absolutely outdoors, we don’t need to wear a mask,” Dr. Shah said. “That is a situation in which it’s a little overkill, it’s too cautious. We know that it’s not going to spread in an outdoor area where you’re well ventilated.”

Many 27 News viewers had questions about the new indoor guidance, though.

Brenda on Facebook asked, “How do you know if they are or aren’t (vaccinated)?” The CDC guidance says vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks indoors.

“I don’t think it’s possible to know that for sure,” Dr. Safdar said.

But if you’re vaccinated, you will stay safe from the virus.

“If you know that you’re fully vaccinated, you’ve got full antibody immunity, then it’s up to you how comfortable you feel in those situations,” Dr. Shah said.

Dalton on Facebook asked, “Those vaccinated shouldn’t affect the non-vaccinated, so the ones that choose not to be vaccinated should be safe also if the vaccine works right? So why should the non(vaccinated) have to still wear (masks)?”

Dalton is talking about herd immunity, which we have not yet reached.

“We need two-thirds of the population immunized,” Dr. Shah said.

Right now, a little more than one-third of Wisconsin’s adults are fully vaccinated. That means people who are unvaccinated cannot yet rely on people who are vaccinated for protection.

Even if you have had COVID-19 in the past, those antibodies you developed when you were sick aren’t enough to protect you, and doctors say you’ll still need a vaccine.

“There’s a huge spectrum of the type of antibody response that an infection will generate, whether it’s a mild infection or whether it’s severe,” Dr. Safdar said.

Many viewers on Facebook wondered about schools. Shelly asked, “When will schools drop the masks?”

Not all ages of children can get vaccinated yet, though vaccinators have been approved to give children as young as 12 the Pfizer vaccine.

As soon as more children can (and do) get vaccinated, doctors say schools may be the next to go back to normal.

“I think that’s another great reason that, now that it’s been approved for 12 and up, that everyone should consider getting their children vaccinated,” Dr. Shah said.

One important thing to note with the new CDC guidance is that local ordinances still apply.

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