COVID-19 Update: Mask Mandates Ending, More Updates In Coming Weeks

On May 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that anyone who is fully vaccinated is no longer required to wear masks indoors or outdoors and no longer need to maintain social distancing in businesses or in the workplace, except where required by federal, state, or local laws or rules.  The new guidelines does not apply to the healthcare setting, correctional facilities, or homeless shelters.  In addition, fully vaccinated people should also still wear masks when traveling on airplanes, trains, or public transportation.

This changes comes after a growing body of research shows that the vaccine is highly effective and suggests that fully vaccinated individuals are less likely to have asymptomatic infection or transmit COVID-19 to others.

Even before the CDC’s announcement, states had begun to lift mask mandates.  For instance, on May 12, Ohio Governor, Mike DeWine, announced that facial coverings and social distancing guidelines would no longer be required in the state of Ohio beginning June 2.  Safety guidelines for nursing homes and assisted living facilities will remain in effect.  Schools and businesses will  be able to set up their own requirements for masking and distancing after the expiration of the state order.

Governor DeWine also announced an incentive for people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.  The state of Ohio plans to give away five $1 million prizes to five adults who have received the vaccine.  In addition, five children between the ages of 12-17 will receive a four-year scholarship to a state university.  Federal coronavirus funds will be used to fund the awards.

In Kentucky, Governor Beshear announced that Kentucky would comply with the new CDC guidelines and change the state’s mask mandate to say that individuals that are fully vaccinated no longer have to wear masks indoors or outdoors.  This comes just a week after Governor Beshear began easing capacity restrictions across the state.  Starting May 28, all events and businesses with 1,000 or fewer people can increase capacity to 75% and events with more than 1,000 people can be held at 60% capacity.  Governor Beshear anticipates that all capacity restrictions will be lifted by July as long as COVID-19 cases continue to decline.

Other Updates

Many states will also begin to see an end to the federal COVID-19 unemployment benefit in June.  In the past couple weeks, many Governors have begun to announce their intent to end distribution of the federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits, which includes the $300 weekly check authorized by the American Rescue Plan until Labor Day.  The states where these benefits will end prematurely include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming. And, we may see more states join this group in the coming days.

State Governors have chosen to end these programs because of the correlation between unemployment benefits and labor shortages.  The enhanced federal benefit has kept people from returning to work, which has resulted in labor shortages in many industries.  In recent days, President Biden has made it clear that anyone that is collecting the federal unemployment benefit will lose that benefit if they turn down an offer of a suitable job.

A chart reflecting the CDC’s new mask guidance can be found here.