Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday, May 17 the lifting of mask requirements in most public spaces for people vaccinated against COVID-19 in the state. The decision was reached after New York health officials reviewed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new and updated guidance.
In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy said he would lift mask restrictions outdoors but keep in place a mandate to wear them indoors.
National Nurses United, the largest nurses’ union in the country strongly criticized the CDC for recently recommending that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in most settings. The union said the new guidance is “not based on science” and it puts essential workers and disproportionately people of color at risk.
“We’re not out of the woods in this yet,” NNU’s president Jean Ross told CNN, noting that hundreds of people are still dying daily of COVID-19 and that the CDC guidance creates confusion among the public and endangers nurses and health care workers.
The union, which described the guidance as “dangerous” also cited specific concerns, including uncertainty about whether the vaccines protect against COVID-19 variants, along with the longevity of vaccinations.
The CDC has pointed to scientific findings that saw the vaccines made COVID-19 infections extremely rare and also were effective against variants.
Nearly 47% of adults in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, while roughly 60% have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC.
In New York, 52 percent of adults have been fully inoculated and 61.8 percent had received at least one shot as of Monday.
“As a mom, I’m concerned. We are vaccinated, our 12-year-old will be vaccinated soon, but we also have a 7-year-old,” Cheryl Baun told the Asian Journal. “So we have to protect her health and the health of other children and immunocompromised people.”
The vaccination rate as of press time in Rockland County where Baun lives is at around 38 percent. Baun and her husband own and operate Karenderya, a Filipino restaurant in Nyack, New York, an hour away from the city.
“I personally feel it is too soon. We have been overly cautious at our restaurant, still only doing takeout and outdoor dining,” Baun said about the timing of the lifting of the mask mandate. “We are considering opening up at very limited capacity for indoor dining, but we would not do so until our entire staff is vaccinated.”
Baun believes that the lifting of the mask mandate has something to do with economics. As a small business owner herself, she wants to fully reopen but only when it is safe for both their workers and customers.
“I understand that it has been a terrible year for so many, but I believe our health comes first,” she said.
In their announcement last week, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said studies show vaccinated people are not likely to catch the coronavirus and, if they do catch it, are unlikely to transmit it to other people.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” Walensky said Thursday, May 13.
NNU is calling on the CDC to revise this guidance and to adhere to science and the precautionary principle in its recommendations, adding that the studies cited by the CDC for its new guidance “present data that is incomplete, not yet peer-reviewed, potentially biased, or show poor statistical certainty.”
“We are very concerned that they would do something like this when we are still in the middle of the pandemic,” NNU co-president Zenei Triunfo-Cortez said in an interview, according to The Washington Post. “We continue to have patients, perhaps not in numbers that has been the same from last year or a few months ago, but it’s still a very big number.”