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Over a third of states are ending COVID-19 mask mandates

States, businesses lift mask mandates
CDC guidance prompts states, retail stores to lift mask mandates 04:02

Many Americans went maskless in public on Friday for the first time in months — a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its guidelines on face coverings for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Eighteen states have announced plans to drop public mask mandates either immediately or in the weeks to come. But others, such as California, New York and New Jersey, are moving forward with caution.

The changes come as more than one-third of Americans are fully vaccinated. They also come as the average number of new cases slips below 35,000, the lowest since September.

But while progress against the pandemic is being made, Americans eager to enjoy spring weather are receiving mixed messages about masking.

To be clear, what the CDC released are just guidelines on mask wearing — leaving it up to states, stores, sports venues and the rest to decide if masks are required. What the U.S. is now seeing mirrors what we've seen throughout the pandemic: a patchwork of rules that vary from place to place, Michael George reports for "CBS This Morning: Saturday."

The CDC's new guidelines specifically apply to vaccinated people. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said this week that people who are not vaccinated should not be taking off their masks.

The guidelines, though, were left open to interpretation.

In North Carolina, the governor announced that the state will no longer require people to wear masks or social distance in most settings. But he said there will continue to be an indoor mask mandate on public transportation and in child care, schools, prisons and certain public health settings.

Colorado took a broader view, with Governor Jared Polis saying "we have now really reached a threshold where not enough people are vaccinated to end the pandemic, but enough people are vaccinated where especially those who are vaccinated no longer need to wear masks."

Corporations are making up their own rules.

Kroger, Target and Home Depot say they're keeping mask mandates in place, while Walmart and Trader Joe's won't require masks for vaccinated customers. They won't, however, ask for proof of vaccination.

Neither will the mayor of St. Louis. 

"You don't want this to turn into sort of like a 'show me your papers' moment. We'll just have to trust what people tell us," said the city's Mayor Tishaura Jones.

That's not good enough for the Kelly's from Oregon, who masked up while visiting Washington, D.C.

"My concern is identifying the difference between those who are vaccinated and those who are not," said Jeri Kelly. "So, to go into a public space, to be less than six feet distance, because I'm vaccinated, I am just concerned that the next person, how honest are they going to be?"

Debate about so-called vaccine passports — proof of vaccination — is increasing, and so is pushback. Take a protest this week when local officials in Southern California considered vaccine passports.

But a parade in Kentucky on Friday served as a reminder that the pandemic — still underway — is deadly serious. It was for 30-year-old Oliva Tudor, who was released from the hospital to welcoming neighbors and friends. She spent months in a coma, but defied the odds. 

Three major studies were released this week that reportedly helped drive the CDC to ease its mask guidelines for vaccinated people. The findings add to a growing body of evidence that the vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19 and that they help prevent people from spreading the virus to others.

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