Memphis infectious disease experts weigh in on new CDC guidelines for vaccinated people

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 4:29 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A beautiful spring day in downtown Memphis had tourists flocking to Beale Street. Some are roaming freely without masks, others a bit more cautious.

This comes one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks outdoors or in most indoor settings, with the exception of hospitals, doctors offices, nursing homes, prisons, and public transportation.

“I’m still going to wear it,” said Sarah Sperling, who is visiting Memphis for the weekend.

Sperling is fully vaccinated but says she will continue to wear her mask in public.

“For me, I was like just as long as it took for the vaccine to come out, I’m going to choose to wear the mask for the same amount of time just because it’s going to cost me nothing. And it won’t cost anyone else anything either in my opinion,” she said.

Shannon Smith is also fully vaccinated but has a different perspective.

“Just go out and vacation and be normal. I’m ready for a normal life again,” Smith said.

But is it too soon to lift mask restrictions? Infectious disease expert Dr. Jon McCullers says no.

“I’m very comfortable with lifting the mask mandate in Shelby County based on the virus we have circulating. And based on the degree of immunity in the community, people have to be responsible. If you’re vaccinated, it’s fine to go without your mask. Now, if you’re un-vaccinated, you need to continue to wear that mask because the disease is still here,” McCullers explained.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Steve Thelkeld agrees with McCullers, and says he hopes this will encourage people who haven’t gotten the vaccine, to reconsider.

“I think that for people who haven’t gotten vaccinated, hopefully this will be the impetus that it takes for them to go and get a vaccine. People don’t do things to make themselves safe. They do things for things that they can do,” Threlkeld said.

Doctors say the only way this will work is if everyone is honest about whether they have been fully vaccinated, and if you haven’t, to continue wearing your mask.

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