A growing number of health experts vaccinated against COVID-19 said they'd keep their masks on in public settings as federal officials acknowledged that new relaxed mask recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention needed clarification.
The comments underscore a growing pushback in some quarters over the CDC's surprise decision to roll back mask mandates last week. Some retailers said they were keeping mask requirements, while others, including Trader Joe's and Walmart, lifted them.
California officials have yet to release their detailed response to the CDC's relaxed guidance, although Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday said the federal recommendations had "created some new anxiety for many: that it may be too soon, too much."
Experts are divided, but many have said it's better to be on the safe side for now.
"I strongly recommend to others that when at an indoor place where both vaccinated and unvaccinated people mix, such as grocery stores, that they wear a mask too," tweeted Dr. Carlos del Rio, infectious diseases expert and executive associate dean at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Added Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, in a tweet: "Here's my personal practice for now: Continue indoor masking in public places like grocery stores until more are vaccinated, infection numbers are down."
"Add me to this list as well," Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, chair of the University of California, San Francisco's department of epidemiology and biostatistics, responded in a tweet. "Wearing my mask indoors just awhile longer until the rates [of vaccinated people] are higher."
Leading scientists and doctors have generally agreed that vaccinated people should feel very safe that they have good protection against COVID-19.
But some have suggested waiting longer before allowing masks to be shed among vaccinated people in indoor public settings; they worry that unvaccinated people will defy the rules and go maskless as well, increasing the risk of transmission among unvaccinated people and potentially putting at greater risk children too young to be vaccinated or immune-compromised people.
In an interview last week, Bibbins-Domingo said the new guidelines also could pose a threat to people who want the vaccine but haven't been able to get it for a variety of reasons.