Virginia health officials weigh in on CDC easing of mask recommendations

Posted at 11:24 PM, Apr 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 08:28:58-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control updated their mask-wearing guidelines indicating that fully-vaccinated people don’t need to wear a mask outside -- in small gatherings or when interacting with people from different households.

"I really do believe that this is telling us that vaccine is the way out of this pandemic," said Dr. Laurie Forlano, Deputy Director of the Office of Epidemiology at VDH

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Forlano said the VDH and governor's office would review the new CDC guidelines to see if any future changes would be needed in Virginia.

"So what's next is that we will review this guidance, we will update our public health recommendations as best we can. We'll continue to advise the Governor's Office as they make their decisions regarding any changes in the future to the executive orders," said Forlano.

The news came just five days after Governor Ralph Northam announced Virginia would be further easing restrictions on businesses and social gatherings in mid-May. But the state’s mask mandate was set to stay in place.

"I think we'll just continue to evaluate the data," said Forlano.

Rebekah Butterfield, Epidemiologist with the Richmond Henrico Health District, said the news was evidence that vaccinations were working, and a major step from where the country and region was this time last year.

"It's exciting, because, you know, we're starting to see case numbers go down in populations that have high vaccine acceptance rates, which shows that it's working," said Butterfield. "It's obviously not a free for all. But it is it is that easing of restrictions that remind us that we are making progress in our war against this pandemic."

According to the CDC, health experts were still learning about the effectiveness of vaccines against COVID variants, and how well COVID vaccines keep people from spreading the disease -- although early data indicated vaccines may help keep people from spreading the disease.

The CDC recommended even vaccinated people to continue to be vigilant, mask at large outdoor gatherings and avoid large indoor gatherings altogether.