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Is It Safe to Be Without Your Mask?

Published on Jun. 21, 2021

Updated on August 12, 2021

Earlier this summer, Michigan lifted many COVID-19 restrictions, including masking mandates. Should you still be wearing a mask to stay safe? If so, where and when?

If You Are Fully Vaccinated.

On July 27, the CDC updated its recommendations for fully vaccinated individuals. To maintain the best protection against COVID-19, especially the highly contagious Delta variant, the CDC advises wearing a mask indoors in public in areas of substantial or high transmission.

Wearing a mask or face covering is important if you have a weakened immune system or if your age or health puts you at high risk for severe disease, or if someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated. If this applies to you or your household, you might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission in your area.

If you feel comfortable in settings where a mask is no longer required, your risk of severe disease from COVID-19 is lower. This is because research continues to show the available vaccines are highly effective in protecting you from serious illness and hospitalization. Research also suggests that your chance of 1) having asymptomatic COVID-19 and/or 2) spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus to unvaccinated people is reduced.

If You Aren't Yet Fully Vaccinated. If you are in between doses or you have not yet received – or cannot yet receive – your COVID-19 vaccine, you are still at significant risk of getting and spreading COVID-19, particularly indoors. Even if you've had COVID-19 naturally, there is still a chance of reinfection.

Where & How to Get   the COVID-19 Vaccine

Why Are Fully Vaccinated People Still Wearing Masks?

In short, there are several reasons a fully vaccinated person is masking in situations where they're not required to by state or local ordinance:

  • They may be in an area of significant spread
  • They may be immunocompromised
  • The relaxed masking guidance still feels uncomfortable.
  • Hesitation around unmasked people who may not be fully vaccinated
  • Practicing extra caution around those ineligible for vaccination, like kids under 12.

Masking is becoming an increasingly personal choice as more people choose to be vaccinated, and in turn, the guidelines ease up. Regardless of your personal stance on the new masking guidelines, understanding why many individuals continue to wear a mask when not technically required to can help alleviate any confusion or frustration you may be feeling.

Where Should You Still Wear a Mask?

  • In indoor situations and crowded outdoor areas when you're exposed to others outside your immediate household (if you're in an area of significant spread or not yet fully vaccinated)
  • In most healthcare settings, where the new masking guidelines do not apply, including Munson Healthcare
  • In settings where you just don't feel comfortable going maskless, even if you're fully vaccinated

What Can We Do to Feel Safer?

Respect one another. Our sense of personal safety is equally as important as COVID-19 concerns. Please remember the Golden Rule and refrain from questioning others around you about why they are or are not wearing a mask. As masking transitions to more of a personal choice – including for private medical reasons – one important way we can support our fellow community members is to avoid asking questions about their masking preferences.

Do what feels comfortable. If you are fully vaccinated, but going maskless causes you anxiety or you're just feeling hesitant due to the newness of the recent guidelines, please don't place undue pressure on yourself to go without a mask. As we continue to make strides toward herd immunity with more and more people getting vaccinated, your hesitation will likely lessen with time. Until then, give yourself permission to make the choice that puts you most at ease.

Do the right thing. If you aren't fully vaccinated, continue to mask in indoor settings, like the bank or grocery store. While it can feel tempting to remove your mask – especially when you are not required to show proof of vaccination – you are still at risk of both getting and spreading the virus to others, including more vulnerable populations like children, those with compromised immune systems, or people who would like to be vaccinated but cannot for certain medical reasons. A clean, comfortable, well-fitted mask helps prevent respiratory droplets that could contain the COVID-19 causing virus from spreading.

Carry a clean mask with you. With varying rules, it's a good idea to keep a clean mask on hand when you do run errands or head out for something fun. Knowing you have a clean mask on hand not only helps you to comply with and support local businesses, but will empower you to make the best decision for you and your health.

Why Wearing a Mask Matters