Finally mask off? Looking at the new CDC guidelines

By Noah Newsome
Elm Staff Writer

In early March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidelines relating to mask use and social distancing, allowing the majority of Americans to begin relaxing these precautionary measures.

Hospital capacity is the main focus of the CDC with these new guidelines, and areas where hospitals are at or near capacity are still recommended to continue with mask usage and social distancing.

This high-risk designation only applies to a handful of counties in the United States, meaning that for the rest of the country, things are almost back to a semblance of normalcy.

“The latest recommendations allow roughly 70% of people in the United States to remove their masks if they want — indoors as well as outdoors.

The guidelines suggest many Americans no longer need to maintain a social distance or avoid crowded indoor spaces,” Yale Medicine writer Kathy Katella said.

This new guidance is likely to inspire a new wave of social events, parties, concerts, and other gatherings as many are eager to engage in activities that have been lost to them for almost two years.

Restaurants will see an uptick in sales as they’re able to once again seat customers at full capacity rather than having to adhere to a social distancing regimen that rendered their dining rooms close to empty.

Movie theaters are likely to see a financial recovery as well now that they no longer need to curtail ticket sales to abide by social distancing guidelines.

Movies like “Spiderman: No Way Home” and “The Batman” performing well at the box-office also bodes well for the resurgence of theater-going activities.

What remains to be seen, however, is how the revival of movie theaters will impact the shift to streaming releases that occurred during the pandemic, and vice versa.

Will movies continue to be released on streaming services and in theaters simultaneously, or will the releases occur on separate dates?

With the loosening COVID-19 guidelines, these are things we as consumers have to consider – what does this mean for things we used to enjoy?

Public transit is not expected to see any major changes as a result of this new guidance, as those sectors fall under a separate mandate put in place by the federal government that requires mask usage regardless of destination.

This edict was set to expire on March 18. However, the CDC announced that it has been extended to April 18.

This change in policy doesn’t guarantee a full return to normalcy however, as many are likely to still have lingering anxiety related to the pandemic and will be wary of going out in public or crowded spaces.

Immunocompromised individuals are also still at risk of contracting and becoming severely ill from COVID-19, so masks and social distancing are still recommended for them.

COVID-19 also has the potential have another surge, especially in the face of these newly slackened restrictions or the advent of a new variant, meaning that the potential for a return to universal masking and social distancing is always lurking around the corner.

As Kent County falls into the low-risk category based on the new CDC guidance, Washington College also shifted its mask policy accordingly.

“Given our low risk levels, our high vaccination rate, and this new information from the CDC, it is reasonable to move to a place where the choice to wear a mask or not is solely up to the individual, to be made based on their own personal risk factors and level of comfort,” the March 3 CPG update said.

Masks are now optional on an individual basis, and this policy cannot be superseded by a professor or other event organizer.

With many students having traveled off campus for spring break, it remains to be seen how long this new shift in policy will last.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Featured Photo Caption: Washington College lifted the mask mandate right before spring break, leaving many students concerned for what would occur regarding outbreaks once everyone returned.

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