CDC and COVID-19: To Mask or Not To Mask?

Joseph R. Anticaglia MD
Medical Advisory Board

The COVID-19 drama continues to have twists and confusions. Recent guidelines promulgated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on May 13, 2021 have raised questions concerning the appropriateness of wearing masks indoors and in public.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky, MD announced the latest guidance on mask wearing by saying, “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities large or small without wearing a mask or physical distancing. If you are immune compromised, you will want to talk to your doctor before giving up your mask. This virus is unpredictable, and we may need to make changes to these recommendations.”

“If you’re not vaccinated,” Dr, Anthony Fauci said, “nothing has really changed.” Take the same preventive measures — wear a mask, keep a safe distance, and wash your hands.

The CDC also noted, it “cannot provide the specific risk level for every activity in every community. It is important to consider your own personal situation and the risk to you, your family, and your community before venturing out.”

Below is the chart, Choosing Safer Activities, published by CDC aimed at answering many of those questions, not all of them. The chart focuses on the safety of your activities.

Safety Activities for:

Unvaccinated People
Vaccinated People

Green — Safest
Yellow — Less Safe
Red — Least Safe

Figures of Face with:
Mask on
Mask off

Figure of Faces Not Wearing Masks
Preventive measures not needed

Figure of Faces with Masks On
Take Preventive Measures
If you are not vaccinated, \you are advised to (wear a mask), stand 6 feet apart and wash your hands

People who are two weeks post their final vaccination, are fully vaccinate. The above chart indicates, you are safest in most outdoor activities without wearing a face covering. However, the CDC points out even fully vaccinated individuals should “mask-up” if visiting hospitals, nursing homes or prisons. In addition, wear a mask if using public transportation or flying.

In today’s environment, it is reasonable to wear a mask, even if you are fully vaccinated, when in the company of immune compromised individuals such as HIV, cancer or transplant patients. Of course, such individuals should also be wearing a mask.

The CDC is working to provide factual and timely information to help us maneuver through this pandemic. As new scientific evidence becomes available concerning the prevention and treatment of COVID-19, one can anticipate more revisions, corrections, and updates from the agency.

Confusion is understandable since some “box stores” and states (e. g., New Jersey) presently require the wearing of masks indoors while others do not. Regardless of the CDC guidelines, Jane said, “Right now, I feel more comfortable wearing my mask inside stores. How do you know if the person who is not wearing a mask is fully vaccinated? It’ll take a while for the ‘dust to settle’ and things clear up.”

We ought not to be surprised by different recommendations down the road because this worldwide coronavirus with its variants is unpredictable and circumstances change. At present, fully vaccinated people may “shed” their masks and go out and about in many places. Unvaccinated people — Mask On. Don’t leave home without it.!


  1. CDC COVID-19; When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated; May 13,2021
  2. CDC; Choosing Safer Activities

This article is intended solely as a learning experience. Please consult your physician for diagnostic and treatment options.