Officials with the Center for Disease Control revised their recommendation around mask wearing Thursday saying that if you’ve been fully vaccinated, you are protected from COVID-19.

The announcement represents a shift from two weeks ago when CDC guidelines exempted people who had been fully vaccinated from not having to wear masks unless in the case of mass gatherings.

But don’t toss out those masks yet. The decision to implement the CDC recommendations would still need to be made at the local and county level.

SOURCE Wisconsin Department of Health Services May 12, 2021

The guidelines also contain exemptions for federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance that are in place.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the recommendation changed because the number of COVID-19 cases around the country have dropped over the past two weeks by one-third. She also pointed to increasing availability of vaccines and the loosening up of restrictions of who can get the vaccine.

“I would encourage counties and localities to look at how much vaccine they have, how many people have been vaccinated,” she said “Look at how many cases are in their area and to make those decisions with that information in mind.”

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“So the science demonstrates that if you are fully vaccinated, you are protected,” Walensky said.

Where things stand at the local and county level on face mask requirements

The City of Racine has the highest seven-day average of new reported COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in Racine County compared to other municipalities here.

This why the City of Racine has a face mask mandate in place, but it is set to expire June 30.

Shannon Powell, communications director for the City of Racine, said health officials plan to review the new recommendations.

“But without a vote from the Council, nothing has changed locally from that perspective,” he said.

Places like Wind Point, North Bay, Elmwood Park and Union Grove have had few, if any cases. Still, the overall 7-day average of new reported COVID-19 cases in Racine County has ticked up slightly as of May 13 with 41 reported new cases.

Outside the City of Racine, there hasn’t been a municipal mask mandate in any other jurisdiction in Racine County since March 31 when the Wisconsin Supreme Court tossed out Governor Tony Evers’ mask mandate.

With that said, businesses and workplaces can enact their own face mask requirements.

Here’s the CDC face mask guidance as of May 13, 2021

  • Update that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance
  • Update that fully vaccinated people can refrain from testing following a known exposure unless they are residents or employees of a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter

Key Points

The following recommendations apply to non-healthcare settings. For related information for healthcare settings, visit Updated Healthcare Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations in Response to COVID-19 Vaccination.

Fully vaccinated people can:

  • Resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance
  • Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel
  • Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States
  • Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings
  • Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic
  • Refrain from routine screening testing if feasible

For now, fully vaccinated people should continue to:

  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.