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On May 13, 2021, the CDC issued new guidance that, in non-health care settings, “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.” The CDC considers people to be “fully vaccinated” two weeks after their second dose of a two-dose series such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The new guidelines also recommend that fully vaccinated people can resume domestic travel without testing before or after the trip, resume international travel without testing before the trip (unless required by the destination) and without quarantining upon return to the US, and refrain from testing or quarantining following a known exposure if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings.
The CDC’s new guidelines came just a day after Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced that the state’s health orders—except some for nursing homes and assisted living facilities—would be lifted on June 2, 2021. In an effort to conform to the CDC’s new guidance, however, the Ohio Department of Health just issued a new health order on May 17, 2021 stating that “except in certain limited circumstances, fully vaccinated persons may safely do most activities without a facial covering and without socially distancing,” while “unvaccinated individuals should continue to protect themselves using mitigation measures, such as masking and social distancing.” This order will remain in effect until June 2 and is meant to bridge the gap between the issuance of the CDC’s new guidelines and the state’s lifting of its COVID-19-related health orders. Governor DeWine also announced that the state will stop deploying investigators to retail establishments and bars and restaurants to verify compliance with the mask mandate due to the impossibility of determining who is vaccinated or not in such places.
In his initial announcement regarding the lifting of health orders, Governor DeWine stressed the importance of Ohio citizens being able to make their own decisions regarding masks and social distancing, but also noted that lifting the health orders will not prevent businesses from continuing to impose their own COVID-19-related rules and requirements. Moreover, the May 17 health order from the Department of Health specifically states, “Businesses must apply exceptions to wearing a mask equally to all persons.”