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Is the CDC guidance easing mask requirements premature? A doctor weighs in

In many states, fully vaccinated Americans can now resume most activities without wearing a mask. The new guidance announced Thursday by the CDC was met with jubilation in many quarters. But there are also concerns the changes for indoor masking are happening too quickly. Lisa Desjardins follows up on those concerns with Dr. Ranit Mishori, a professor of family medicine at Georgetown University.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In many states, fully vaccinated Americans can now resume a large variety of activities without wearing a mask.

    The new guidance announced yesterday by the CDC was met with jubilation in many quarters, but there are concerns the changes for indoor masking are happening too quickly.

    Lisa Desjardins follows up on those questions.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Judy, some of those concerns are tied to the country's vaccination rates.

    More than half of all Americans are not yet fully vaccinated. And when you add Americans under 18 years old, the nation is at just 36 percent fully vaccinated. Many places may not be ready to ditch their masking requirements yet.

    We look at those concerns with Dr. Ranit Mishori. She is a professor of family medicine at Georgetown University and senior medical adviser to Physicians for Human Rights.

    For the record, she's also an adviser to our parent company, WETA.

    Ranit, thank you so much for joining us. Good to talk to you.

    Let's start with these concerns over health. What are you concerned about, particularly about the indoor mask-wearing or not?

  • Dr. Ranit Mishori:

    Thanks, Lisa.

    I think many experts and Americans are a little bit concerned that this may be perhaps premature, perhaps too early. As you mentioned, only 36 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. And if you look at subgroups, we're talking about 27 percent among Blacks.

    So this is becoming a vaccine equity issue, when you think about who which populations are more have higher rates of vaccination, and those tend to be more whites and more affluent people.

    So, the concern is, it's not fair, and those benefiting are those that maybe not do not need the protection so much.

  • Lisa Desjardins:


    The Centers for Disease Control say the studies show that people who are fully vaccinated are, by and large, strongly protected and they also see studies showing that they are unlikely to be able to pass on the disease.

    So, taking that equity issue, is there also a health issue, or no? Is it safe for people who are fully vaccinated? Are they a threat to anyone else without their masks indoors?

  • Ranit Mishori:

    I think that, definitely, the vaccines are very, very effective, and those studies are right.

    But at a time when we don't know who is fully vaccinated, you don't know if the person in front of you is fully vaccinated, there are people who cannot get vaccinated. There are children who cannot get vaccinated. So a lot of people are feeling unsafe. And there are currently no ways of determining or asking people about their vaccination status.

    There is no local systems. And, in fact, it's perhaps not part of an etiquette to be able to ask the person in front of you at the checkout counter, excuse me, you're not wearing a mask, but are you fully vaccinated?

    So, we're hearing from a lot of people concerned about that, concerned that maybe people who are immunocompromised and cannot mount a full response, children and other vulnerable people, may actually have to continue wearing a mask, and sort of defeats the purpose here.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I know you're not just thinking about these in an academic or philosophical sense.

    You work at Georgetown University, and I know you're helping advise them on what to do with patients in their facilities. I'm really curious. We heard from some folks earlier in the broadcast about the dilemma a lot of businesses are in.

    What are your concerns for who enforces this or not when it comes to just regular run-of-the-mill activity?

  • Ranit Mishori:

    I think you're absolutely right.

    And we're not unique. And all businesses, institutions are currently in a bit of a chaotic situation. It's very confusing, because it's, sadly, up to us, up to the until individual businesses, up to individual institutions, to decide whether or not they're going to endorse the CDC recommendations.

    It's up to states. It's up to municipalities. So, this is causing a little bit of confusion. And you can — as the people in the segment you showed before, the business owners, have said, what is going to happen when people unmasked are going to come in? Am I going to feel safe going into a place that doesn't require masking?

    Or am I, as a business owner, as a person leading an institution, do I have the right to ask people to step outside and leave or show me their vaccination record? So, it's going to cause a lot of confusion, and it's going to make it a little messy to know how to behave in different settings.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    A confusing time, but one of hope.

    Thank you for helping us put our hands around where we are right now, Dr. Ranit Mishori of Georgetown University.

  • Ranit Mishori:

    Thank you so much.

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