Is It Safe to Ditch the Mask? Looking Into the CDC’s New Mask Mandate

Nyrmah Reina Terreforte
Updated May 21, 2021
1 min read

In an unexpected turn of events, the CDC has relaxed the mask mandate for fully vaccinated people. The changes have received mixed reactions all over the country. Many appreciate the flexibility this new mandate gives to people that have been inoculated. On the other hand, others are concerned that the new measures have been rolled out too soon. 

Main Takeaways

The new CDC guidelines for wearing a mask are only for people who have been fully vaccinated. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Here are the key points of the new mandate:

  • Fully vaccinated people can resume indoor or outdoor activities without masks or physical distancing unless it’s against local laws, rules, or regulations. 
  • Fully vaccinated people that have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 don’t need to be quarantined unless they show symptoms in the 14 days following exposure. 
  • There are further exceptions to this mandate, including:
    • Healthcare professionals are still required to follow the previous guidelines. 
    • Fully vaccinated people must wear a mask on all forms of public transport and healthcare facilities. 
  • Businesses may choose to implement or not implement this new guidance.
  • For domestic travel, fully vaccinated travelers don’t need to self-quarantine or provide a negative COVID-19 test. 
  • For international travel, fully vaccinated travelers don’t need to get tested before leaving the U.S. unless required by their destination. However, fully vaccinated travelers are still required to get tested before arriving in the U.S. They don’t need to self-quarantine when they return, though the CDC still recommends getting tested 3-5 days after returning.

Mixed Reactions

As seen on social media, the new mandate received mixed reactions from the public. Many are relieved that they can start regaining a sense of normalcy. This new mandate also works as an incentive for people who haven’t been vaccinated yet. It sends the message that if people get inoculated, they can begin to approach life as they did before the pandemic

However, others fear this flexible new mandate was rolled out too early. There are also concerns that the mandate isn’t clear, and its implementation is left to the discretion of state governments or businesses. 

The new guidelines have caused the same confusion on a larger scale. Some states have chosen to embrace the new mandate, while others don’t. As for businesses, most are shifting toward implementing the new guidelines and rolling out a system for both employees and customers.

Concerns Over Honor System

The CDC has revealed that new data proving the vaccine’s effectiveness made this shift in guidance possible. The recent decline of COVID-19 cases across the country also served as encouragement. On the other hand, more than half of Americans haven’t been inoculated, and around 25% of the population doesn’t plan to. 


One of the issues with the mandate has been how confusing it is to be implemented. The circumstances vary greatly in different parts of the country. For an area where most of the public has been vaccinated, this mandate seems like a natural next step. That’s not the case for the whole country. 


However, the main issue for many is that people would have to rely on others to be honest about their vaccine status. If a family of mostly vaccinated individuals decides to gather, this might not be a big deal. It’s easier to trust the people closest to you. The honor system becomes an issue when people rely on others in public settings, such as grocery stores and theme parks. 

This issue is even more of a concern for front-line workers. National Nurses United (NNU) and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) are two of the many organizations that have criticized the new guidelines. Essential workers are concerned that they will have to act as the “vaccine police” in many cases.

What Should I Do?

If you aren’t fully vaccinated, keep up with the current CDC guidelines. If you are fully vaccinated, consider how the people around you implement the guidelines before doing away with your mask.

Reactions to the pandemic have varied widely across the U.S. What you decide to do depends on the circumstances of your community and your personal feelings. The World Health Organization (WHO) encourages the public to consider the transmission rate of the virus and the rate of vaccination before discarding their masks. Look for your local vaccination statistics and hospital status before deciding to stop using your mask. And remember, even though the CDC says you can ditch your mask, you don’t have to. Do what makes you and your family feel the most comfortable. 

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