WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A South Florida physician says new indoor face mask recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are a "step in the right direction."
"This is very good news. We're finally enjoying the advantage of taking the vaccine," said Dr. Shady Salib, an internal medicine specialist in Palm Beach Gardens. "I think the CDC noticed there is some decline in the new cases."
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The CDC on Thursday recommended that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear facial coverings indoors in most cases.
"Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said. "If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic."
The only exceptions, Walensky recommended, are congested places like airplanes, trains, and hospitals.
"For most of our daily activities, we can go to dinner, hang out with friends who are vaccinated like us, or family members," Salib said. "We can enjoy outdoor activities now without having to wear the mask."
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, 9,436,587 people statewide have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Currently, anyone 12 and older is eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, while those 18 and older can get either the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shot.
Salib said that while many children are not allowed to receive the vaccine just yet, he advises parents that, depending on your comfort level, it's generally safe for kids to not wear masks in many places.
"Kids can rarely get sick, and if they do, they recover quickly from it," Salib said. "It is easier for kids to recover from it, so I think it's OK to take the mask off."
However, with more school districts agreeing to make facial coverings optional next school year, Salib said students should continue to wear masks inside classrooms for the time being.
"I think we should stick to the masks for a little bit until we get everything settled down and get most of the parents vaccinated," Salib said.
When it comes to masks inside businesses, Salib advised business owners to use your best judgment when it comes to requiring facial coverings.
"If you believe as a business owner, even that you are vaccinated and you are protected and you are willing to let your customers in without wearing a mask, take the sign off," Salib said. "If you're not vaccinated or you still don't feel comfortable because you don't know if there's a new virus, a new strain of the virus coming on, put the sign on."
Salib encouraged everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine and use your instincts when it comes to wearing masks.
"It's not over," Salib said. "We are vaccinated and we're heading in the right direction, but that does not mean that we are 100% protected."