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CDC Eases Mask Requirements, Amid New Signs of Emergence From Pandemic

April 27, 2021

Take off your mask outdoors and take a deep breath. Remember what that feels like? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s now OK for fully vaccinated Americans to go maskless outdoors, with few exceptions.

But that COVID-19 news Tuesday wasn’t the only reason to feel as if we’re inching toward a more familiar comfort zone:

1. CDC Says It’s Safe For More Americans to Go Maskless Outdoors

Fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear a mask outdoors unless they’re in a crowded place like a sporting event, concert or parade, according to the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency acknowledged at a midday briefing that outdoor transmission accounts for less than 10 percent of COVID-19 cases.

“But please be mindful of individuals around you and their existing comorbidities and mindful of any symptoms,” says Keith Grant, APRN, Hartford HealthCare’s Senior Director of Infection Prevention. “And if you have symptoms, especially now that individuals might not be using masks as much as before, please get tested and please stay away from others.

“But don’t be surprised if you see me without a mask jogging in the park based on that [CDC] recommendation.”

2. Vaccine Demand Slows: Some Sites Now Accepting Walk-Ups

By the beginning of the week, 66 percent of state residents 18 years old and up had received at least one dose of the vaccine. The crush is over. Expect the mega vaccine sites around the state to start winding down. Hartford HealthCare also has started accepting walk-ups at certain vaccine locations. On Tuesday, no appointments were needed at the Hartford Convention Center, Foxwoods and the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group’s Wethersfield location.

“We will continue to expand that availability,” says Dr. James Cardon, Hartford HealthCare’s Chief Clinical Integration Officer. “We’re going to do a bit of a test and see what the demand is. . . . We expect we’ll be doing more walk-ups over time.”

Hartford HealthCare also has resumed administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Emergency Departments and to patients transitioning out of acute care. The first J&J vaccine clinic is scheduled for Saturday at the Xfinity Theatre in Hartford.

3. The Vaccine Works: Hospitalizations Drop Dramatically

Once vaccinated, it’s still possible to become sickened by the virus. But it’s highly unlikely an infection will cause a severe illness.

“If you get vaccinated,” says Dr. Ajay Kumar, Hartford HealthCare’s Chief Clinical Officer, “your chance of hospitalization or mortality are significantly reduced to almost negligible.”

Of 98 people who recently visited Hartford HealthCare, either in an Emergency Department or other setting, about 45 had been fully vaccinated. Only one of those fully vaccinated required hospitalization, says Grant.

“And this individual didn’t end up in critical care in need of critical-care services,” he says. “There are very good reasons to get the vaccine.”