State mask mandate still in effect, local officials encouraged by new CDC advice

COVID-19 Vaccine

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement easing mask requirements for those fully vaccinated is welcoming news for health leaders in West Michigan.

The CDC’s recommendation states people can go without masks at outdoor public places and most indoor settings two weeks after receiving their last required COVID-19 vaccine dose.

“Certainly very encouraged by the recommendation from the CDC that fully vaccinated people can now go into public places, even indoor places without wearing a mask,” said Adam London, the administrative health officer of the Kent County Health Department.

The optimism is cautious. The CDC only provides recommendations for state and local health departments.

“Now Michigan and the county health departments, hospitals and businesses, they can take this guidance and say this where the CDC wants us to go and if we think it’s safe to do this, we can do it,” said Dr. Rick Van Enk, the director of infection prevention and epidemiology for Bronson Healthcare. “Nobody has to follow these guidelines if they don’t want to.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has not yet said if it would be updating mask requirements in the state. When News 8 reached out to the state health department, a spokesperson said they were reviewing the guidance.

While the new recommendation gives fully vaccinated people the green light to take their masks off indoors and in crowds outdoors, Van Enk says people should still be careful.

“That’s a risk that they (CDC) took,” Van Enk said. “There are some indoor environments that don’t have very good ventilation and I would still not feel safe. Even as an immunized person, I would not feel safe in some of those environments.”

Grand Rapids resident Jon Alexander and his wife Kimberly are fully vaccinated. While Jon is happy about the CDC’s recommendation, he’s also cautiously optimistic about entering public places with a mask on.

“I think it’s a step forward in getting back to normal,” Alexander said. “I think for the time being, I’ll probably wear mine even though I’m fully vaccinated just because so many people aren’t. Just think, it’s a respectful thing.”

Kimberly said she’s looking forward to not having to wear a mask.

“I have asthma, COPD. This (mask) makes it extra hard to breathe too,” Kimberly said. “It’ll be good to not have to (wear a mask).”

The health officials News 8 spoke to say they hope the CDC’s announcement encourages unvaccinated people to get their shots.

“Every person that gets vaccinated from here on out is one big step closer to reaching those milestones,” London said. “We encourage those unvaccinated people to please do that. For the vaccinated people, thank you.”

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