This is major, and potentially has huge implications for the travel industry.
Mask rules eased for vaccinated people
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has today eased indoor mask wearing and social distancing guidance for fully vaccinated people. With this update, fully vaccinated people are no longer told that they need to wear masks or social distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, or local laws, including local business and workplace guidance.
For example, there’s still a federal transportation mask mandate, so you can expect we’ll continue to have to wear masks on planes. However, this means that masks will no longer be consistently required in schools, workplaces, etc. As Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, describes this change:
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities – large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing. If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”
This change is credited to the progress the USA has made with vaccinations:
- 154 million Americans (more than 46% of the population) have received at least one dose of a vaccine
- 117 million Americans are fully vaccinated
We’ve seen coronavirus cases and deaths decrease significantly, and hopefully that trend continues even further in the coming weeks, as vaccinated people continue to build immunity.
Masks will no longer be required in restaurants for vaccinated people
This is surreal, awesome, and tricky
Before we talk about the implications this has for travel, I have a few general thoughts:
- It’s absolutely surreal to think that after 14 months we’ll be able to go out in public again without wearing masks
- I think it’s awesome that the government is finally giving people who were otherwise on the fence a real incentive to get vaccinated, which is a return to mostly normal life (of course people should get vaccinated to protect themselves and others, but unfortunately that wasn’t enough of an incentive for many); telling fully vaccinated people to not change their behavior only created more vaccine hesitancy, in my opinion
- This is also tricky, because one reason that everyone has had to wear a mask is because there’s no easy way to differentiate between vaccinated and unvaccinated people; I assume we’ll now be using the honor system, so for all practical purposes this may spell the end of mask wearing for most vaccinated people as well (there’s a high overlap between anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers, so…)
Expect that you’ll still have to wear masks on planes
What are the implications of this for travel?
With this updated guidance from the CDC, what does that mean for travelers? Do we still have to wear masks in airports, on airplanes, in hotels, etc.? Here’s my general take:
- There’s a transportation mask mandate in place through September 13, 2021, so I imagine that won’t change, meaning that you’ll still have to wear masks at airports and on planes; however, perhaps this mandate won’t be extended beyond that
- We’ve seen virtually all major hotel groups require masks to be worn in all public spaces, and I would expect those rules to be changed sooner rather than later, perhaps even in the coming days
- It will ultimately still be up to individual businesses and local governments to mandate mask wearing; I would expect that most businesses will lift these requirements for vaccinated people, though I imagine it will vary based on the general politics of a place (for example, Florida and Hawaii have been on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to coronavirus related precautions)
I would expect hotels to change their mask policies soon
The CDC has updated its guidance to no longer recommend mask wearing for vaccinated people in crowded outdoor spaces, as well as in most indoor spaces. It’s great to see we’ve made enough progress where public health officials feel comfortable with this.
While I expect we’ll still have to wear masks at airports and on planes through September, I expect mask requirements will likely be lifted in many other areas (including hotels) in the coming days and weeks.
How do you see the updated guidance from the CDC playing out in the travel industry? If you’re vaccinated, will you change your approach to mask wearing immediately as a result of this update?