(NEXSTAR) – On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new masking guidelines, stating that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask indoors in most situations.
But what about children under 12 years of age, who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine? Do they still need to wear masks, even if their parents aren’t wearing them?
Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine, says it completely “depends on what the kid is doing and where he or she is located.”
“If you’re in a hotspot like India, it’s not okay [to stop wearing a mask],” he said.
The same rings true for children who live with immunocompromised individuals, because “if the kid goes out into the community, then comes back into the house, the people in the household may be at-risk.”
In lower risk areas, such as California, where the COVID case rate is low at the moment, “it should be fine being un-masked [as a child], as long as community prevalence of the virus remains low.”
If community prevalence goes up, “it’s a different equation.”
“In California, I’d say OK, ditch the mask,” he said. “I wouldn’t say the same for Michigan,” which is currently a hotspot for COVID in the U.S.
It also depends on the age of the child and how much he or she is interacting with other people. Children under 2 do not need to wear masks, unless a school or other entity requires them to do so.
The new CDC guidance doesn’t give the green light to go mask-less in all settings. The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for masks or social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.
The CDC will also no longer recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks outdoors in crowds. The announcement comes as the CDC and the Biden administration have faced pressure to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated people — people who are two weeks past their last required COVID-19 vaccine dose — in part to highlight the benefits of getting the shot.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, announced the new guidance on Thursday afternoon at a White House briefing, saying the long-awaited change is thanks to millions of people getting vaccinated — and based on the latest science about how well those shots are working.
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities – large or small – without wearing a mask or physically distancing,” Walensky said. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”