As over half of Americans have received their first COVID-19 vaccination, what does this mean for mask mandates, emergency orders and a return to normal life? 

This week at least half of adult Americans have received their first COVID-19 vaccination in the country’s largest ever vaccination campaign. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 130 million people ages 18 or older have received at least one dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. The US cleared this milestone just one day after Johns Hopkins University totaled the global COVID-19 death toll at 3 million. 

There is much speculation among medical professionals regarding what COVID-19 regulations might look like after all or most of America is vaccinated. The CDC is advising Americans to keep taking precautions after they’ve been fully vaccinated, “like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces—in public places until we know more.”

The CDC additionally listed what you are permitted to do once you’ve been fully vaccinated.  This includes, but is not limited to, visiting a home or private setting without a mask with other fully vaccinated people of any age and visiting a home or private setting without a mask with one household of unvaccinated people, who are not at risk for severe illness and traveling domestically without a pre- or post-travel test. 

The list alsoy specifies that people should not walk around outdoors without a mask on, even when they’re fully vaccinated. With these official guidelines in place, there are still a variety of mask mandates and mask exemptions between the states. 

Bureaucrats in Michigan are seeking permanent COVID-19 regulations. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration is seeking to reform its emergency rules into permanent ones alongside Virginia, the only other state to implement permanent COVID-19 regulations. 

The new rules are being called problematic for a multitude of reasons, as they do not mention the word ”vaccine,” and could easily remain in place permanently regardless of how many residents are vaccinated. Employers would still be required to enforce strict COVID-19 regulations, such as requiring employees to wear masks, work from home and social distance, regardless of how much of the workplace is fully vaccinated.

In Massachusetts, calls are growing to relax the mask mandate; however,  Governor Charlie Baker won’t commit to any specific time frame in which he would be comfortable with lifting the mandate. According to epidemiologists, there is “barely any risk at all” of contracting COVID-19 when people are not crowded outside and are properly social distance. Based upon the regulations of the Bay State mask mandate, people are asked to wear a mask at all times in public. 

“I really question whether people have to wear them outside while they’re walking, while they’re running and biking. That’s a different risk. There’s barely any risk at all,” said Dr. Paul Sax, clinical director of the division of infectious disease at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Dr. Sax specified the importance of wearing masks while outside in crowded settings, such as walking through large groups of people or when having face-to-face encounters with people in close range. 

As for California, health experts are openly conflicted about when and how to lift or ease the mandate. When asked if the mandates should end, UCSF’s infectious disease expert Dr. George Rutherford told ABC7, “No, no, absolutely not. At this point in time, when we actually still have a lot of people unvaccinated and still 2,500 cases a day in California, new cases a day in California, it seems to me to be a prudent thing to continue.”

As of now, it is still uncertain when mask mandates will be lifted, and when large scale vaccinations will lead to a sweeping return to normalcy.