CDC eases mask-wearing for vaccinated, but Bay Area health official says not so fast

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) -- Fourth Street in downtown San Rafael might as well have been Mainstreet, USA, today, at least in terms of COVID-19 and face masks.

"I feel a sense of freedom, now," said Lauren Carmichael while sporting a wide smile. "No Mask! Fresh air! I can see people smiling again!"

News of a new mask and social distancing policy began filtering down just past 11 a.m., with an announcement by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who directs the Centers for Disease Control.

"Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor or outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing. If you are fully vaccinated you can begin doing the things you stopped doing before the pandemic," Walensky said.

EXPLAINER: What fully vaccinated people can, cannot do according to CDC's new mask guidelines
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People fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can ditch masks in many circumstances, the CDC says, but some people aren't quite ready to remove their face coverings yet.

Most things, anyway. You will still need to wear a mask on airplanes, but not at concerts or sporting events. The CDC has concluded that not only do the vaccines work, but enough of us have received them to ease mask restrictions.

However, states and counties will need to approve those guidelines. "To me this is an incentive to be vaccinated," said Dr. Matt Willis of Marin County Health. "This is not a sign that the coast is clear and we can abandon mask wearing."

Dr. Willis still worries about people congregating based on the honor system.

Not everyone packs a vaccination card like Tom Ryan, who we found watching a soccer game in the Mayflower Pub. "I just carry it in case someone wants to know."

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The new guidelines are welcome news for restaurants and also do nail salons. "Well lucky for me, I'm double vaccinated," said Laurie Rinker while soaking her feet. "My husband called the mask a social passport. I'm ready to rip it off!"

Health clubs celebrated today, as well. "Thank God we're free. I can breathe again," exclaimed Chad Hall as he took a breather between sets.

As to whether these measures arrive too early, Dr. Willis is still not sure.

"The question is when. What is the right time? In my mind this t feels premature. Every crowd will be a mix of vaccinated people and unvaccinated people. And if they are not covering their faces, transmission will occur," said Dr. Willis.

In short, mask free still does not mean worry free.

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