BALTIMORE -- After two and a half years of social distancing and quarantine after exposure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has relaxed its guidelines for COVID-19.
Public health experts say the CDC's policy shift reflects the higher levels of immunity they're seeing among the American people as a result of vaccinations and previous infections.
Chief among the new guidelines: six feet of social distancing is no longer recommended in public settings, and people exposed to the virus do not need to quarantine. Instead, they're advised to wear masks for 10 days and test for the virus on their fifth day.
"This isn't 2020," Dr. Amish Adalja, a senior scholar for Johns Hopkins University, said. "This isn't 2021. We have to have the guidance reflect people's risk acclimatization to this virus."
Dr. Adalja said vaccinations protect against severe disease, hospitalization and death–and exposures are almost certain to happen at this point.
"This isn't going anywhere," Adalja said. "There's going to be COVID-19 exposures 50 years from now."
The CDC estimates between vaccines and prior infections, about 95% of Americans over the age of 16 have some degree of protection against the contagious virus.
Those who spoke with WJZ in Annapolis on Friday welcomed the agency's new guidance.
"I think we should continue to take precautions as well," one woman said. "Where I'm from, there is a spike right now. Just be careful, too."
Gail Bagge of Davidsonville anticipates there will be vaccines needed every year.
"It's something that's gonna be with us and I think common sense is going to rule," she said.
"I think transitioning to a more personal choice to wear more protective equipment is a valid way to approach it," said Sharon Fitzsimmons, who expects the virus to spread more easily. "I think we'll continue to see new waves."
Dr. Dana Silver, a pediatrician for Sinai Hospital, said COVID-19 is here to stay.
"When kids go back to school, we're going to see the natural surge, just like we do with other colds and other infections," Dr. Silver said.
The U.S. is recording more than 100,000 cases and some 500 deaths each day.
It's worth noting that the CDC still recommends wearing masks indoors in areas where community levels are high, including Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
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