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Unmasking The CDC's Newest Mask Rules

Leoneda Inge
Leon Harris and Yarsby Thorpe of Newport News, Va., walk on a beach in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says fully vaccinated people can ditch their facemasks, for the most part. But some are still uneasy about taking it off in public and others are confused about exceptions to the rules.

Look to your left. Look to the right. You just might be the only one wearing a face mask.

For the past year, I have been wearing, buying or ordering face masks for family and friends, non-stop. And then I take a little trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Hardly anyone is wearing a mask, especially on the beach.

I bump into a guy named Jables Anderson. I liked his ukulele. He sang me a song.

Leoneda Inge
A sign posted in a restaurant window on S. Ocean Blvd. in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

I understand not wearing a mask in the open air, easy-to-distance beach landscape. I wasn’t wearing a mask. Jables wasn’t wearing one either. But I am vaccinated. Jables is not.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced, “If you are fully vaccinated you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.”

I couldn’t help but stop and talk to Anita Mick of Bristol, Tenn., as her beautiful silver hair blew in the wind. She and her husband have been vacationing at Myrtle Beach for more than 50 years.

"I just got to be compliant with whatever venue that I visit," Mick said. "If it’s a retail store that’s saying 'wear a mask,' I always have one handy to put on. And if you see people without masks, I feel good about not wearing a mask. Like the beach."

"I would not want to be here in a mask," she said. "And I know Dollywood - which is family entertainment next to where we live - last year they all wore masks, and I didn’t go because of that."

Mick can visit Dollywood this year. The latest statement from the Dolly Parton theme park says, “Fully vaccinated guests can now visit Dollywood without wearing a mask and without physically distancing.”

The CDC is pretty clear who can resume activities without a mask or social distancing, but federal, state, local and tribal governments also get a lot of say. And so do businesses like Dollywood, Disney World, Costco and Walmart, who all say vaccinated people can go mask-less on parts of their property.

But who is vaccinated? And will people have to prove it?

Duke Health
Dr. Adia Ross, Chief Medical Officer of Duke Regional Hospital

Leon Harris and Yarsby Thorpe of Newport News, Va., were holding hands, walking up the Myrtle Beach shoreline. Leon had on a mask. Yarsby didn’t. Leon is vaccinated. Yarsby isn’t.

"Since I’ve been here I’ve been confused about, should I put it on or not, because nobody here (is) wearing masks," Harris said. "Some people wearing them, but not that many."

"If I am in Virginia, I’m going to wear my mask," said Thorpe. "I have my mask in my pocket. I’m kind of like, when in Rome, do as the Romans do."

If you happen to bump into Dr. Adia Ross, she will have her mask on her wrist, like a bracelet, and ready to put on at any time. Dr. Ross is the Chief Medical Officer at Duke Regional Hospital in Durham.

"The CDC didn’t say that if you want to wear a mask you can’t wear a mask," Ross said. "So I would say, if people don’t feel comfortable, just keep wearing your mask. There’s no reason that you have to stop doing that."

Dr. Ross isn’t the only health professional who says Americans may be mis-interpreting the CDC’s latest mask guidance. Dr. Anthony Fauci says the federal guidance on mask-wearing never said “un-vaccinated people should abandon their masks.”

And if you need a little incentive to get vaccinated, maybe it’s time to move north, to Ohio. That’s where there is a vaccination lottery, where five lucky Ohio residents will win $1 million each. The first million-dollar vaccination drawing is this week.

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