“It’s confusing”: Researcher calls CDC’s updated mask policy a mistake

ORLANDO, Fla. — The CDC’s new guidance for fully vaccinated people has been supported by many scientists, but at least one researcher believes it was a mistake.

Dr. Ali Mokdad is the Chief Strategy Officer of Population Health for the University of Washington. He’s gained notoriety for accurate predictions on the spread of the coronavirus in Florida.

READ: Changes to Orange County’s mask mandate, social distancing: What it means for restaurants, outdoor activities and theme parks

While he understands precautions will continue to be dropped as more people get vaccinated, he thinks the CDC needs to define some of their criteria in the new guidance more clearly.

“It’s confusing,” Dr. Mokdad says. “I love the CDC...I highly respect them, but this one is sending the mixed message at the wrong time for everybody.”

The guidance gave the go-ahead for fully-vaccinated people to remove their masks outdoors in small gatherings.

However, those vaccinated people must keep their face coverings on if they are in a crowded place like a concert or sporting event.

Dr. Mokdad says those terms haven’t been adequately defined for the public.

“There was not enough guidance to tell you how safe is a place...basically it’s up to you. Is a farmers’ market a crowded place? Is a tent for a restaurant outdoors?”

READ: Central Florida residents on both sides of new CDC mask guidelines for outdoor activities

Dr. Mokdad says he’s also concerned that people who are not vaccinated will take advantage of the situation.

“How do I know who’s vaccinated? Who’s not? People who don’t want to get the vaccine, who don’t want to wear a mask, this is a great opportunity for that,” Dr. Mokdad says.

The biggest concern, Dr. Mokdad says, is that the CDC may have to backtrack.

“If we keep changing back and forth, we lose the trust of the public.”

If COVID-19 cases continue to climb, Dr. Mokdad says local governments may be forced to take action again.

“We may need to reinforce the mask mandate and strictly enforce it,” Dr. Mokdad says. “Especially if we have a new variant.”

READ: ‘We just have to get the demand up’: Orange County officials aim to fight decreased interest in COVID-19 vaccines

According to Dr. Mokdad, the best time for the updated guidance would have been later, once at least 79 percent of the population was vaccinated.

“Is the endpoint not wearing a mask? No. The endpoint is herd immunity. The endpoint is controlling the circulation of the virus.”