CDC: Not vaccinated yet? Keep wearing face masks

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ATLANTA – The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) last week noted some apparent confusion about the recommendations for wearing face masks to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Based on their study of fully-vaccinated persons over the past few months, the CDC has dropped the recommendation for those who are fully vaccinated to wear face masks. However, those who have not yet been vaccinated should wear face masks and maintain 6 feet of distance from others, especially in public places where they do not know whether or not unmasked strangers have been fully vaccinated.

The CDC continues to recommend all eligible Americans be vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines are widely available free through pharmacies and health departments – in many places with no appointment needed.

Stores and businesses continue to have the right to require customers wear face masks if the business owner so chooses, just as a business has the right to require customers to wear a shirt or shoes.

What about children who are not old enough to be vaccinated? “Unvaccinated people age 2 and older should wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household,” the CDC advises. Some schools have relaxed masking requirements leaving mask decisions up to the parents.

The CDC also advises those with other health issues that may compromise their immune systems consult with their doctors about appropriate precautions even if they are fully vaccinated.

Masks are still required on public transportation including airports, buses and trains. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) mask requirement extends through Sept. 13, 2021.

The change in masking rules does not mean the pandemic is over. According to the Agency for Health Care Administration, as of May 25, the number of residents hospitalized for COVID-19  in South Central Florida included:
• Collier County: 60;
• Glades County: 0;
• Hendry County: 6;
• Highlands County: 12;
• Martin County: 12;
• Okeechobee County: 2;
• Palm Beach County: 144.

According to the Florida Department of Health, as of May 24, statewide, 10,035,446 have received at least one dose of vaccine. That’s about 58.4% of the adult population.

In South Central Florida, those who have received at least one dose of vaccine, (and the percentage of adults vaccinated) include:
• Collier County- 207,131 (64.6% );
• Glades County - 4,704 (39.8%);
• Hendry County - 12,441 (40.4%);
• Highlands County - 45,548 (51.5%);
• Martin County - 80,356 (59.5%);
• Okeechobee County - 12,373 (37.3%);
• Palm Beach County - 725,881 (59.9%).

As of May 25, 36,501 Floridians have died related to COVID-19. COVID-19 deaths in South Central Florida include:
• Collier County: 542;
• Glades County: 19;
• Hendry County: 85;
• Highlands County: 363;
• Martin County: 328;
• Okeechobee County: 89;
• Palm Beach County: 2,853.

Positive cases to date in Florida as of May 25 totaled 2,268,729. COVID-19 positive cases in South Central Florida as of May 25 were:
• Collier County: 35,414 ;
• Glades County: 972;
• Hendry County: 4,816;
• Highlands County: 8,632;
• Martin County: 12,387;
• Okeechobee County: 4,085;
• Palm Beach County: 145,117.

Those who survived COVID-19 may have some immunity to the virus, according to health officials. But determining what percentage of the population now has some immunity is difficult for several reasons. Some people who had COVID-19 have also been vaccinated. Some people who were vaccinated in Florida were winter residents who are not counted in the census population. Some people who had COVID-19 had no or only mild symptoms, did not seek medical help and were not tested.

The CDC continues to recommend everyone wash their hands frequently (at least five times a day) and thoroughly with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer if hand washing facilities are not available. Not only will this help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it will also help prevent the spread of other viruses and bacteria. Thanks to masking and other precautions, health officials reported very few cases of colds and flu last winter. 

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