Health: The Changing Issue of Mask Mandates

The Story:

Last year, pre-vaccine, the public health establishment’s dominant answer to the pandemic was “wash your hands, stay six feet from one another, wear masks.” Elaborate regulatory systems developed at the federal, state, and local levels to enforce these prescriptions. Now, with vaccines in the blood of a majority of adult Americans and Covid-19 numbers in happy free-fall, the question of mask mandates in particular wears a new face, so to speak.


On May 13, 2021, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks, except in special circumstances (as in very tightly packed indoor crowds). Soon thereafter, President Biden explained the new federal policy in these words: “get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do.”

States are bringing their policies quickly in line with this. Not all localities need follow. The process of de-masking even the demonstrably vaccinated at that level may be an uneven one. But what is perhaps even more important: the private sector, especially retail outlets which have responsibilities both to consumers and to employees in a confined space, will have to make their own decisions.

In Pill Form:

Few retailers are likely to post someone at the door in order to demand to see the vaccine card for everyone who wants to enter unmasked. It is more likely that many will expect people to keep masks on until they feel confident enough to adopt an honor system, simply taking their customers’ word for their own vaccinated status.

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