More people will be without masks under the governor’s new plan

Colorado waited Thursday night as Gov. Jared Polis worked out the details of his plan to eliminate the mask mandate for people who are fully vaccinated. The governor’s office confirmed with CBS4’s Shaun Boyd that the change was coming.

It follows CDC recommendations to peel back the mandate with exceptions for health care and public transportation settings as well as close congregate settings like prisons. People with compromised immune systems may want to check with their doctors says the CDC.

“That moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Studies are showing that those vaccinated, without other health risks, are well protected.

“I actually agree with that completely,” said Dr Michelle Barron, an infectious diseases specialist with UCHealth Hospital.

She noted that there will be risks for some, but understandable.

“I think in the public venues it’s amazing … it’s no different than getting behind the wheel of a car. Where you potentially are taking that risk, acknowledge the risk and you go for it.”

The CDC cited studies that show the risks for fully vaccinated people are far lower. One study of more than 5000 medical workers in Israel shows the vaccine was 97% effective in preventing symptomatic infections and about 85% effective against asymptomatic infection. Those who did get infected had a lower viral dose and were less likely to transmit it to others.

This does not mean there won’t be people who will still want to remain masked. Those with medical conditions that put them at greater risk may top that list. Among the relatively few fully vaccinated people who have been hospitalized with COVID-19, Dr. Barron noted where those with health challenges.

“The people that this has occurred to usually have issues with their immune systems from underlying medications or from underlying disease states.”

And there is likely to be hesitancy as people try to get used to the idea of going without masks again.

“I’m not totally comfortable with not wearing them all the time yet,” said Amanda Fichter, who was out in Parker.

“I would have preferred that it would have been months later that we had more vaccines for younger people,” said Keith Mangum, who was wearing a mask as he was out Thursday night.

Others were concerned about enforcement.

“I’m not sure how they’re going to enforce who is vaccinated and who is not. That’s a problem,” said Bob Fugazi.

But vaccine data supports the low infection rate for people who have no other health challenges.

“Somebody that’s younger, healthy, they will respond to the vaccine, they will be absolutely protected,” said Dr. Barron. “If I had cancer or something, taking medications that effected my immune system, I probably have quite a bit of protection but it may not be at the 90%, 95%, it might be at like the 80%.”

But COVID in the era of highly effective vaccines has lowered the risks substantially. Now there is more room to decide what people are comfortable doing. Barron drew a comparison.

“You figure that out for yourself at the end of the day like, if you don’t think it’s a good idea to go out on a snowy day driving because you’re worried about getting in an accident, that’s your choice. Some people will still do it because they have to or feel confident in their abilities.”

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