This feels like the Covid version of VJ day.
The US government, previously criticized for its slow-moving updates to mask and social distance guidance, went the other direction Thursday and made a simple and surprising declaration -- get vaccinated and take off the masks and lose the distance.
Take them off outdoors.
Take them off indoors.
Take them off for large gatherings and small.
Seriously! And you don't need to distance!!!!
There are exceptions and qualifications. We will continue to wear them on planes and for other shared forms of travel. And you will want to wear them if your immune system is compromised -- or if you can't get vaccinated.
What about the kids who can't get a vaccine? And the poor kids under 12, who aren't yet eligible for the vaccine, seem to be out of luck. There will be a difficult transition as the wee ones wait for vaccine approval and see grownups around them shedding their face coverings. There's an argument that, since they don't spread it in the same way, and so few children have died from Covid, there should be some leeway for them. But that doesn't line up with the current guidance for schools and summer camps -- though they'll probably now have to work much harder to keep up standards going forward.
But every other vaccinated person? Get back to normal and do it now. "We've got to make that transition. If you are vaccinated, you don't have to wear a mask outside," Fauci said on "CBS This Morning." He added there are "very unusual" situations of going into an extremely crowded situation, "where people are essentially falling all over each other, then you wear a mask."
"But any other time, if you are vaccinated and you are outside, put aside your mask."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky went further during a briefing at the White House, announcing new guidance that vaccinated people can take off their masks in many places indoors, too.
I don't think anyone was expecting the CDC to make this announcement Thursday, but it is about as unequivocal as you can imagine and she said it was based on studies from US and Israel showing 90% or more efficacy for vaccines in health care workers.
Read exactly what Walensky said: Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing. If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy. Based on the continuing downward trajectory of cases, the scientific data on the performance of our vaccines and our understanding of how the virus spreads, that moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated.
Is it time to hug a stranger? After the third time I read that quote, and the part about not having to physically distance, I seriously thought about going to ask a stranger on the street if they were vaccinated and if they wanted a full-on bear hug. (Not a cautious hug.)
It's an abrupt and unexpected re-interpretation of the science from the traditionally slow-moving CDC, particularly when it comes to indoors. It's certainly a lot simpler than the color-coded guidance issued by the CDC in April. And it speaks to the larger effort to get people to burst out of the Covid bubble.
From confusion to clarity. The CDC had already recommended mask-free life for the vaccinated outdoors, but it was packaged with all sorts of caveats and did not lead people in most places to feel as comfortable as they could.
"I'm here in New York City watching people walk around, all of them wearing masks, and I'm thinking, why are they doing this?" said CNN's Elizabeth Cohen, reacting to Fauci's declaration on outdoor masking. "These people are probably vaccinated."
What next? While many states have eased or ended mask requirements, others have not. I was at an outdoor soccer game in Maryland, for instance, over the weekend, where both players and spectators, even separated by many feet, were required to mask up.
The whiplash we're now going to see in restrictions being lifted is going to be amazing. Also amazing will be the difficulty getting dinner reservations as people follow the CDC director's advice and get back to it.
Before the announcement Thursday, Cohen wrote about the ongoing debate within the CDC about mask guidance, wherein the science-based agency has been slow to respond to data suggesting outdoor masks are unnecessary for the vaccinated, and also had difficulty settling on guidance that makes any sense to normal people. Read that report here.
For now the agency seems to have settled on caution. Take a look below at the CDC graphic Cohen references, which seems likely to be updated soon, that requires a code key and flow chart to understand.
One problem with more forcefully counseling vaccinated Americans not to wear masks outdoors is that they stop wearing them indoors.
8 vaccinated Yankees get Covid. Vaccines can prevent horrible Covid outcomes, but they do not guarantee a person won't get Covid. All of them got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which clinical trials found was 72% effective against Covid-19 illness and 85% effective against severe illness from the virus.
While some people who get vaccinated might get Covid-19 later, doctors say they are likely to have less severe symptoms than if they hadn't gotten the shot. And hopefully the Yankees will not win the World Series.
Vax-a-Million! The vaccine perk effort is getting weird. Vaccines underpin the CDC guidance and all the all the other good news. But simply telling people to get vaccinated is not enough. They have to be enticed, apparently.
The most interesting and out there is the five $1 million lottery prices and five full-ride scholarships launched in Ohio. Want a chance to win the cash? Get a shot in the arm. It's like a reverse-Hunger Games. You would not think it takes a buyout to get your friends and neighbors to do their part. But that's where we are. It must seem particularly odd to people in countries where vaccines still aren't widely available.
There is still a LOT of racial inequity in vaccines. White Americans are much more likely, particularly than Black or Latino Americans, to be vaccinated. There's research from the Kaiser Family Foundation that suggests Hispanic and Latino Americans are significantly more likely to say they have been affected by Covid and want to get vaccinated.
It's the economy, stupid! CNN's Kevin Liptak writes that the economy, beset by either blips or full-on problems -- unrelated to the pandemic, unforeseen and maybe uncontrollable -- has the White House under pressure.
The disparate factors are not all directly related, and the pipeline shutdown was prompted by Russia-based ransomware hackers who penetrated a weak private sector network. While that did not affect supply, it prompted a rush of panic-buying from the public, leading to gas shortages in multiple states. Administration officials say the other matters are the expected blips of an economy emerging from a catastrophic pandemic-related crisis, with demand surging as Americans return to a new normal.
But combined, the elements have caused new pressures for a President eager to enact sweeping new legislation while also cultivating Republican support for at least part of his plans. At the same time, new violence erupting between Israelis and Palestinians has drawn Biden's attention to a fresh foreign crisis.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene hounded Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Capitol building. Lawmakers, despite their differences, are supposed to be respectful, so this episode of the controversial Republican literally going after the Democrat is disappointing. Read more. The gloves-off environment has raised security concerns for Ocasio-Cortez and others, like the Trump-critical Republican Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.
Matt Gaetz associate plans to plead guilty. From CNN's report: As part of the deal, Joel Greenberg will cooperate with investigators in a wide-ranging probe, according to one source familiar with the matter. For months, federal investigators have been examining whether Gaetz broke federal sex trafficking, prostitution and public corruption laws and whether he had sex with a minor.
Panic-buying houses. Yesterday I wrote here about panic-buying gasoline. Now read here about the Covid effect on housing prices:
In an unexpected twist, the pandemic has benefited house prices.
That's because governments around the world helped homeowners by temporarily banning repossessions and providing trillions of dollars of support for workers and businesses. Interest rate cuts kept mortgage repayments affordable in many places, while temporary reductions to purchase taxes in some markets spurred home buying.
As people were forced to transform houses into offices and classrooms, it didn't take long for a "race for space" to take hold.
Wealthier individuals in several countries have fled cities for larger suburban homes with more outdoor space in the anticipation that they won't need to commute into central offices as much even after the pandemic ends.
Many of them are financially in a better position than they were before the pandemic hit, since they've spent less on vacations and eating out, and can therefore spend more on house purchases.
Bridges and roads need help. I feel like people are starting to tune out when we use the word "infrastructure." Try this: The repair of a vital Memphis bridge could take two months, chief engineer says. The impacts are already being felt.