Grace Thomas is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but still isn’t ready to take off her mask, especially around the children at the home daycare she runs in Chicago.
But it remains to be seen whether children continue to wear masks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that healthy people in most parts of the country can safely stop wearing masks as cases continue to decline.
Thomas, 62, plans to ask parents to have their children wear masks to prevent daycare from being a potential source of transmission, but ‘you can’t make them wear masks if they don’t want to’ , she said.
Many Americans, including parents of school children, are calling for an end to face coverings while others remain cautious that the pandemic could kick a new curve. Now states, cities and school districts are weighing Friday’s advice to determine whether it’s safe to stop wearing a mask – long after others rejected such mandates and many Americans ignored them. .
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said the statewide school mask mandate would be lifted on Monday in response to the new guidelines, though Chicago Public Schools officials said they would continue to require masks “to maintain health and safety measures”.
Los Angeles began allowing vaccinated people to remove their masks indoors on Friday, and Washington, DC, had already announced it would end its mask mandate on Monday. Washington state and Oregon plan to lift indoor mask mandates in late March.
But the issue still remains politically tense: Florida’s governor announced new recommendations on Thursday called “Buck the CDC” that discourage mask-wearing — even though the CDC says the state still has large areas of serious concern.
Christine Bruhn, 79, a retired food science professor at the University of California, Davis, said she would only take off her mask if she thought it was safe, usually around vaccinated friends. When surrounded by a large group of strangers, “I wear a mask,” Bruhn said.
“I’ve been vaccinated and strengthened but I don’t want to get sick,” said Bruhn, who also said she would continue to cross the street to keep away from people without masks if she saw any walking towards her.
American Medical Association President Gerald E. Harmon said Friday he would continue to wear a mask in indoor public places and urged “all Americans to consider doing the same” as millions of people are likely to contract a serious disease or are too young to be vaccinated.
Still, many people seem to be done with masking.
Steve Kelly, manager of Kilroy’s Bar & Grill in downtown Indianapolis, said it seems neither employees nor customers think much about COVID since Indiana lifted the mask mandate for restaurants.
“It seems like no one is wearing a mask,” he said of his customers, although a few employees still do. And he said people rarely get angry anymore.
“My daughter is 13 and she wears a mask. It’s his choice,” he said. “Nobody bothers her about it and she wouldn’t care if they did.”
In Effingham County, central Illinois, mask-wearing — and animosity between those who do and those who don’t — has plummeted, said council vice-chairman David Campbell. County. He said the only places he sees people wearing masks are hospitals and doctors’ offices.
“Eighty-five to ninety percent of the people you see on the street, in stores, in restaurants, don’t wear them,” Campbell, 61, said. “You used to hear people say, ‘Why don’t you wear masks? ‘ but you don’t anymore.”
Under the new guidelines, the CDC says people can stop wearing masks if they live in counties where the coronavirus poses a low or medium threat to hospitals — representing more than 70% of the U.S. population.
The agency still advises people, including school children, to wear masks where the risk of COVID-19 is high, in about 37% of U.S. counties, where about 28% of Americans live. And those with COVID-19 symptoms or who test positive should wear masks, the agency said.
The recommendations do not change the requirement to wear masks on public transport and at airports, train stations and bus stations, but the guidelines for other indoor spaces are non-binding, meaning cities and institutions can set their own rules.
Two of the nation’s largest teachers’ unions weighed in, with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten calling the guidance “new, long-needed steps for a safe exit from universal masking.” She said many students and teachers have struggled with COVID-19 restrictions.
But National Education Association President Becky Pringle urged school districts to “act with caution” and seek input from local educators before making any decisions to end mask wearing.
Sharon Holmes, a Chicago high school teacher, said she will continue to wear a mask while teaching and outside of the classroom.
“My partner and my daughter both have asthma,” Holmes, 53, said. “I don’t feel safe yet, personally.”
Webber reported from Fenton, Michigan.