Arizonans react as CDC officials say fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear a mask

People in Arizona are reacting to a new guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on mask-wearing for fully vaccinated Americans.

Related: CDC says fully vaccinated can stop wearing masks indoors and outdoors in most settings

On May 13, CDC officials eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

"We have all longed for this moment — when we can get back to some sense of normalcy," said Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC.

The guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters, but it will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.

Walensky also encouraged people who have weak immune systems, such as from organ transplants or cancer treatment, to talk with their doctors before shedding their masks. That’s because of continued uncertainty about whether the vaccines can rev up a weakened immune system as well as they do normal, healthy ones.

Arizonans breathe sigh of relief

Arizonans we spoke with after the new guidance was issued say they are ready to return to some sort of normal life.

"It's great, going back to normal life," said Michael Sheriff.

"I moved out here prior to COVID, and things slowed down fast, so I think it’s a great beginning to normalize things," said Donald Selig.

Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ says she does not believe the CDC made its decision too soon.

"As long as everybody is concerned about their community and taking the appropriate steps, it's perfectly fine to follow the CDC guidance," said Dr. Christ.

Dr. Christ was also asked about when Arizona is expected to reach herd immunity. Dr. Christ said the goal is for 70% to 80% of Arizonans to be vaccinated before the state can be considered to have achieved herd immunity, also known as community immunity.

"If we keep on the current rate, we're estimating that by the fall, we should reach herd immunity," said Dr. Christ.

City officials respond to questions about mask mandates

The new guidance also raises the question on mask mandates that various cities have enacted.

In a statement, a spokesperson with the City of Phoenix said, in part:

"Changing the mandate requires consideration and a vote by the Mayor and City Council. We anticipate that discussion will occur at a future council meeting."

The spokesperson went on to say that Mayor Kate Gallego relies on local public health experts, whom she is working with regarding the new guidance.

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COVID-19 resources

CDC Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)

AZDHS Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)