By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
SOUTH JERSEY — On Thursday, federal officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that fully vaccinated Americans can stop wearing masks and social distancing in most indoor and outdoor settings.
The news is perhaps the clearest marker of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, but only for those who are fully vaccinated, obviously. The CDC defines an individual as “fully vaccinated” two weeks after they receive their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine models — or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, of course. However, it’s a massive moment for so many Americans — especially for those who are sick of adhering to COVID-19 guidelines pertaining to mask-wearing and social distancing.
“The science is clear: If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic,” the CDC said in a statement issued Thursday.
The CDC’s guidance doesn’t apply to travel settings such as planes, trains, and buses, and community members should continue to wear masks and socially distance in places like hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons, as well.
At the time of publication, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy hadn’t responded to this news in any way. However, he has consistently said that New Jersey’s guidelines on mask-wearing and social distancing would be consistent with those set forth by the CDC. It’s entirely possible that New Jersey lifts the mask and social distancing mandates that are in place for fully vaccinated individuals on or before May 19 — the day that New Jersey’s most aggressive COVID-19 reopening measures will take effect.
The first six months of the global COVID-19 vaccine rollout have led to the inoculations of hundreds of millions of people throughout the United States. As of Thursday, more than 153 million people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, and 117,647,439 people — more than a third of the United States’ population — are fully inoculated against the pandemic.
Despite these totals, vaccine numbers have slowed down in the United States as demand for the shots decrease. The federal and state governments throughout the United States — including New Jersey — have come up with a number of programs and campaigns designed to increase vaccinations as demand decreases.
No matter how many free sandwiches or free beers you’re offered, there’s no better incentive to get vaccinated than the freedom that comes with no longer being required to wear masks or socially distance.
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