On July 25, infectious disease expert and national medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci announced that revisions to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) masking guidelines are “under active consideration” in the face of spiking illness and death rates throughout the United States.
Current CDC guidelines state that fully vaccinated individuals need not wear masks in public spaces. These policies do not necessarily dictate legal requirements for masking, but rather offer informed recommendations based upon the most recent medical data.
Proponents of the revision to CDC guidelines worry that no uniform method exists for checking citizens’ vaccination statuses. In addition, some health experts have argued that national statistics do not reflect a significant increase in immunization rates even after granting people the freedom to decline masking once they are fully vaccinated.
A number of locations experiencing major outbreaks, such as Los Angeles County, California, have reimposed mask mandates for all residents regardless of immunization status. Government officials in those areas hope to curb transmission in order to protect the unvaccinated and individuals with inhibited immune systems from the highly contagious Delta variant.
Thus far in the pandemic, Tennessee has allowed counties and cities to uphold or decline the CDC’s masking policies according to local circumstances. McNairy County has yet to impose a formal mask mandate, but various leaders have counseled citizens to remain vigilant when in public spaces and to take precautions if one feels at risks of exposure.
“We have a mask-optional policy that we are going to have in place this fall. For students that feel comfortable wearing masks, that will be allowable; for those students who do not feel comfortable wearing masks, they do not have to wear masks. That is going to apply for personnel and staff as well. The Tennessee Commissioner of Education [Dr. Penny Schwinn] said yesterday that it is a local decision made by the local education association and school board. Should there be a mandate that comes down from the state, we will certainly pay heed and attention to that, but we are not formulating any mandates at this time,” explained Greg Martin, McNairy County Director of Schools.
Health experts agree that N-95 masks with National Institute for Occupational and Safety and Health (NIOSH) approval provide the greatest protection against COVID-19 aside from vaccination. Ideally, cloth face coverings should include multiple layers and fit snugly around the mouth and nose.