Masks are optional (well, really, they always have been)

May 23, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

SUBMITTED BY THE BOCA GRANDE HEALTH CLINIC – Last week the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance that says “fully vaccinated” Americans do not need to follow precautions at all (not masks nor distancing) except for as required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. This guidance does not apply to healthcare settings (hospitals, doctors’ offices), nursing homes, homeless shelters or correctional facilities and masks are still required on all forms of public transportation.

Along with this new guidance came a new executive order from Florida’s governor suspending all local Covid-19 restrictions and mandates on individuals and businesses. 

This latest executive order is directed at state and local government to protect businesses and individuals; stating no restrictions can be mandated by the government. 

Individual businesses are not excluded from requesting their own precautions from their employees and customers, but keep in mind, nothing can be enforced, only requested/recommended. 

What this means is: each business and individual can make their own decision on how they feel safe and this may need to adjust with changing levels community transmission.

Some points to keep in mind as we make our own decisions:

• The possibility of asymptomatic transmission from a fully vaccinated person still exists. (nine fully vaccinated New York Yankees players and personnel recently tested positive)

• We don’t know who is, and who is not, fully vaccinated and everyone is on the honor system

• Most children will not be eligible for vaccines for at least another year

• Even some who think they are fully vaccinated, are not. Persons who take medications for rheumatologic or autoimmune disease, blood cancer patients (with lymphoma or leukemia) and persons on medication for organ transplant, often DO NOT RESPOND to two doses of vaccine, and do not make antibodies after two doses of vaccine. That means they are not protected like everyone else who is vaccinated, even though they are fully vaccinated themselves. So if you have one of these underlying conditions, or have someone in your household that does, you may want to consult with your physician before deciding to throw all precautions to the wind.

• There are still several million others that remain unvaccinated for personal preference reasons 

• We don’t know how long the protection from the authorized vaccines will last 

• As there are still well documented long-term effects of even mild infection with covid-19, some known and likely more unknown, it is still better not to get infected at all. 

• With more folks unmasked, the last layer of protection disappears for the unvaccinated. This only underscores the call for all of us to get vaccinated.

Still safest:

– If you are in a public indoor space that shares air with others, not in your household, it is wise to wear a mask regardless of vaccine status; particularly in a larger or crowded group. 

– If you are in a crowded outdoor space or one where safe distancing is difficult,  it is wise to wear a mask regardless of vaccine status. 

– Stick with your family at the pool. If it’s crowded, go to the beach.

– Outdoor dining is still safest. 

– One variable that we have in Boca Grande is all the travelers from areas of different transmission. Think wedding parties. 

– Bonus: you probably won’t get the flu either!

Masks fill in the gaps left by the limitations of vaccines. Let’s all respect each other’s choices to take the precautions that make each of us feel safe and comfortable in our unique situation. 

Be well,

Drs. Ervin, Hana and James