Americans Ignoring Conflicting CDC Advice

Vaccinations are not keeping up with recklessness.

After weeks of timidity in touting the benefits of vaccination against COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control is finally telling Americans that, once vaccinated, they can more-or-less return to normal. People seem to have stopped listening, however.

CNN (“Fully vaccinated people can gather unmasked and indoors for Easter, CDC says“):

People who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can safely gather for Easter on Sunday — both indoors and without masks, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Twitter.

It’s still recommended, however, that individuals who are not fully vaccinated have their Easter dinner and egg hunts with only the people in their household or outdoors while 6 feet apart to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the CDC said.

Today (“CDC: Fully vaccinated people can travel in US without tests or quarantines“):

People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can travel freely in the U.S., as long as they remain masked on planes, buses and trains, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday.

It is unclear how much impact the new guidance will have. People are already traveling and making decisions on their own. American Airlines reported Monday that the company’s bookings have jumped to 90 percent of what they were before the pandemic.

The new guidance means that “fully vaccinated grandparents can fly to visit their healthy grandkids without getting a COVID-19 test, or self-quarantining, provided they follow the other recommended prevention measures,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday during a news briefing.

Still, the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise. The current seven-day average of new cases is slightly above 62,000 cases per day.

While fully vaccinated people may travel at low risk, Walensky said, “CDC is not recommending travel at this time due to the rising number of cases.”

It is expected that the U.S. will surpass 100 million people who have received at least one dose of vaccine Friday. More than 56 million Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Aside from the comfort of others and protection from other diseases, including the common cold, there’s no good reason for a fully vaccinated person to wear a mask.* Still, they’re now sending something like the right message: the vaccinated don’t transmit the virus and are exceedingly unlikely to become infected with it and, if they do, they’re likely to get a very mild case. But whether it’s a distrust in the advice; poor leadership from other public officials, particularly Republican politicians; or simply being “over” it after 13 months of restrictions on daily activity, most people seem to have just gotten back to life.

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*I received my second Moderna dose Wednesday and my wife received her first yesterday, meaning I’ll be “fully vaccinated” on the 14th and she’ll be there on May 23rd. Practically speaking, though, there’s no way for random strangers at the grocery store or a restaurant to know that, so it’s not obvious when masking requirements can go away.

FILED UNDER: COVID-19, Health, Science & Technology
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    My wife and I had our second shots over a month ago. We continue to mask. Evidence seems to be accumulating that the vaccinated don’t spread the disease, but that’s still less than certain. I’d feel awful if our kids or grandkid contracted it and we might be the source. But the big reason we mask is because the unvaccinated need to and we should support that norm. I see no particular motivation for not masking. It costs next to nothing and the inconvenience is negligible.

    In a rational world, mask requirements would be lifted when the CDC felt we had reached herd immunity. As is, with a major political party who’s only consistent policy position is “Wahh!”, I expect masking will fade a lot sooner.

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  2. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I was going to comment on the juxtaposition of “there’s no good reason for a fully vaccinated person to wear a mask” with the asterisked comment “there’s no way for random strangers at the grocery store to know that,” but decided that both comments appearing in the same post represented enough awareness of the needs of others for today–even in a font less than half the size of the original post.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: It’s also what I was getting at with “the comfort of others” in the main text. Wearing a mask once fully vaccinated does nothing to protect others since the fully vaccinated aren’t spreaders. But, even if the law were changed to allow those who are fully vaccinated to go unmasked, until we achieve herd immunity we’ll be indistinguishable from the maskholes who just refuse to comply with social norms.

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  4. @James Joyner:

    until we achieve herd immunity we’ll be indistinguishable from the maskholes who just refuse to comply with social norms.

    Agreed. I just don’t any way around it. And even as states lift mask requirements, I expect a lot of private businesses will continue to require them.

    One bit of anecdotal evidence: I flew for the first time last week (and I was fully vaccinated) to Texas. While Abbott declared the state wide-open a while back, pretty much everywhere I went required masks (although it was clear that the lack of a mandate gave some people license not to wear in ways different than my observations in Alabama, where the mandate is in place until the 9th).

    I will say, it has been striking how nice it is to be able to have small, maskless meetings with also vaccinated colleagues.

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  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    The most important metric for people is death rate, not infection rate. We’re reaching the point where the elderly population is vaccinated, and as it’s old people who filled hospitals and died, the death rate is not likely to spike again. Absent hospitalization and death Covid 19 is just the flu. Yes, some young people get a more severe case, but again, same as flu.

    My wife and I are both vaccinated so wearing a mask is purely performative. I think a fair number of people are doing the same, but it won’t last. As deaths decline so will compliance. Fingers crossed that the clever little bug doesn’t find a way to defeat the shot.

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  6. steve says:

    The aftereffects of being hospitalized may be worse than thought. Retrospective BMJ study so it is not gospel, but they are seeing about 1/8 of those hospitalized dying within 4 months, about 8 times higher than their matched controls.

    https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n693

    Steve

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  7. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: And it’s not even death rates that are important to most people. I check Worldometers daily. I expect many of us here check the stats regularly. Most people are only aware of the statistics as they see headlines. It’s headlines about deaths that drive precautions. Death rates are ticking up in much of the country. But as vaccination spreads, the rates won’t reach new records and won’t drive headlines. The average person will barely be aware of COVID except for being irritated by mask requirements (more what you’d call guidelines). I’m seeing more people maskless of late.

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  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I will say, it has been striking how nice it is to be able to have small, maskless meetings with also vaccinated colleagues.

    We’re actually hoping everything stays on Zoom. My wife is banging out Zoom ‘book tours’ from the comfort of home as opposed to arriving at some Radisson in Ohio where she gets in too late to get any food and the bar is closed.

    We’ve ventured out to the mall, and a couple of actual, sit-down restaurants and found the experience deflating. The mall was still just the mall. Restaurants were fine, but not life altering. Driving down to the beach was nice: the ocean is still right where we left it. But if international travel was unaffected we’d vote for more lockdown.

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  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @gVOR08:
    And you don’t even think about what passes as news for most people: Facebook, local news, something they half heard on the car radio, random shit their friends say.

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  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    I’m not vaccinated yet, so this is all hypothetical for me, but I may continuing wearing masks in public permanently.

    This is the first winter in as long as I can remember that I didn’t get any colds or the flu, and I’d like to keep that going. Maybe this pandemic has awakened some germophobe tendencies in me. It’s also underline the degree I’m surrounded by barbarians and can’t depend on others to do the right thing for society.

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  11. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    One of the primary reasons people show up at book store events is to get the book signed by the author. Obviously Katherine can’t do this in person, so what’s the substitute? Autographing book plates that she can mail the shop owner to put in the individual books?

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  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Joyner:

    until we achieve herd immunity we’ll be indistinguishable from the maskholes who just refuse to comply with social norms.

    Moreover, we will serve as the justification for the maskholes–“why should Cracker have more freedom than I do just because he won the Boomer/Silent birth year lottery?”

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  13. James Joyner says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: The only version of the ‘two classes’ argument that works for me is that one. It may well be that we ought to set up the passport system but not actually implement the privileges until May 1 or some such. By then, most everyone should have had an opportunity to get shots if they want them.

    The incentivization to get the shots would go down but only modestly and temporarily. The main drawback is that service businesses really could use the throughout now.

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  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    @CSK:
    Yep, bookplates and tip-ins. She did IIRC 10,000 autographed tip-ins for The One and Only Bob. Cases of them piled up. Probably 100 pens. And she runs autographed books out through a local bookstore, although I think that turned out to be a pain for the bookseller.

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  15. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    Wearing a mask once fully vaccinated does nothing to protect others since the fully vaccinated aren’t spreaders.

    We don’t know this. We know that they are less likely to spread, but not that they don’t spread. The J&J vaccine is only 75% effective, and the others were tested before the variants, so they may be in the same range. So, vaccination reduces your risk of being a spreader to about 1/4th you prevaccinated risk. (And your risk of serious illness and death to 1/20th or so)

    Until infection rates go down, masks aren’t just “performative”, @Michael Reynolds.

    It’s simply 1/4th as effective at protecting the unvaccinated than it was before.

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  16. Gustopher says:

    @Gustopher: Mathing a little more, a vaccinated person’s risk of infecting another vaccinated person is 1/16th normal, which is likely perfectly fine without masks given that the newly infected party is very unlikely to be hospitalized or killed.

    I don’t think either James or Micheal are intentionally slipping into “screw you, I’ve got mine” territory, just that we aren’t getting the right information out.

    ——
    Throughout all of this, I am making the assumption that Moderna and Pfizer are about 75% effective at stopping the variants. We don’t know that, as they haven’t been tested against them in a controlled manner. The efficacy tests for them were done in the US, before the variants.

    J&J was tested here, and around the world, at a time when more variants were around. It performed well (75%) but more of the people who got infected anyway had one of the variants, compared to the general distribution of the virus.

    So, a big unknown. We’ll find out!

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  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Joyner: This may be one of those rare circumstances where “The Market” [tm] is the best choice for working the magic we would like. Businesses that are stakeholders in the problem may be better suited to determining what risks they want to take (they appear to be leaning toward passporting) with the public “free” to take whatever risks they are willing to bear.

    As I’ve noted before, I’ve been practicing for this event my whole life and am inured to wearing masks–something that Korea wasn’t able to accomplish, I would add. On the other hand, no business in America is going to survive or fail on the basis of the presence or absence of my custom, either, so I just don’t have the solution. The market may well know, in this case.

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