Vaccinated Americans don't need a mask most of the time, CDC says

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 10:25 PM ET, Thu May 13, 2021
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2:35 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021

Masks are still required for now when traveling, CDC director says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

People walk through Chicago O’Hare airport on April 26 in Chicago.
People walk through Chicago O’Hare airport on April 26 in Chicago. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Travelers will still have to wear masks while on public transportation, the director of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

"Right now, we still have the requirement to wear masks when you travel on buses, trains and other forms of public transportation ... as well as airports and stations," Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

In April, the Transportation Security Administration's mask mandate for all travelers in airports, airplanes, terminals, trains, buses and boats was extended until Sept. 13.

The CDC will continue to update guidance, she said.

2:30 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021

CDC director to unvaccinated Americans: Keep your masks on

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reiterated that unvaccinated Americans should continue to wear masks and practice social distancing, encouraging them to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

"The science is also very clear about unvaccinated people. You remain at risk of mild or severe illness, of death, or spreading the disease to others. You should still mask, and you should get vaccinated right away," Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

Walensky added that if Covid-19 conditions worsen in the US, today's new mask guidance for fully vaccinated people could be rolled back.

"We know that the more people are vaccinated, the less cases we will have and the less chance of a new spike or additional variants emerging," she said.

2:26 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021

CDC says fully vaccinated people can take off their masks indoors and outdoors

From CNN’s John Bonifield and Elizabeth Cohen

Pool
Pool

Calling it “an exciting and powerful moment,” the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors, except under special circumstances.

“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing. “We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”

She said the science supports the new recommendation that “anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities – large or small – without wearing a mask or physically distancing.”

Walensky’s announcement has a few caveats. She warned that people who are immune compromised should speak with their doctors before giving up their masks.

She also said that “the past year has shown us that this virus can be unpredictable, so if things get worse, there is always a chance we may need to make change to the recommendations.” 

1:58 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021

CDC expected to issue new guidance on indoor mask-wearing for vaccinated people

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

Sylvia March gets a Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccination from a health care worker at Miami International Airport on May 10 in Miami.
Sylvia March gets a Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccination from a health care worker at Miami International Airport on May 10 in Miami. Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to issue new guidance on indoors mask-wearing for vaccinated people, according to a source familiar with the plans. 

Earlier this week, officials said they were not anticipating the CDC to issue new guidance for fully vaccinated people this week.

But the CDC is now expected to cite new studies about how vaccinated people should or should not take precautions.  

The new guidance comes as top federal health officials have been under increasing pressure from lawmakers and public health experts to adjust the agency's conservative guidance. Governors pleaded with President Biden earlier this week to model the perks of getting vaccinated. 

1:05 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021

Covid-19 pandemic has significantly affected Hispanic adults, research finds

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an outsized effect on Hispanic adults when compared to Black and White adults, according to research published Thursday from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Among those surveyed, Hispanic adults were more likely than either Black adults or White adults to say they or someone in their household has tested positive for Covid-19 or that a family member or close friend has died from Covid-19.

More than two-thirds of Hispanic adults reported they were worried that they or someone in their family would get sick from Covid-19. This number rose to 89% in potentially undocumented Hispanic adults.

Data were collected from interviews with 778 Hispanic adults as part of KFF’s ongoing Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor.

Hispanic adults also expressed a greater desire to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Just under half of Hispanic adults surveyed had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, compared to 51% of Black adults and 60% of White adults.

Of those who had not yet begun vaccination, 17% of Hispanic adults said they wanted to get a vaccine as soon as possible — more than the percentage for either Black or White adults. Hispanic adults had the smallest percentage of any group who said they would “definitely not” receive a vaccine.

A majority of unvaccinated Hispanic adults were concerned about missing work due to vaccine side-effects, and more than half were worried about paying for the vaccine, although the Covid-19 vaccines are all being provided at no cost to recipients.

Researchers said vaccination gaps in Hispanic communities may be driven by concerns like this and by documentation barriers. More than 40% of Hispanic adults were asked to provide government identification when making an appointment, 32% were asked for health insurance information, and 14% were asked for a social security number.

“While the vaccines are available to all adults regardless of their insurance or immigration status, many Hispanic adults who have been vaccinated say they were asked for their health insurance information or a government-issued ID,” said Samantha Artiga, a KFF vice president and director of the racial equity and health policy program. “That can pose barriers for many, particularly those who are uninsured or are potentially undocumented immigrants.”

Hispanic adults who were younger, less educated, or Republican reported the greatest amount of vaccine hesitancy, with 15% of Republican Hispanic adults saying they would “definitely not” receive an available vaccine.

1:27 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021

Racial and ethnic disparities in Covid-19 vaccination persist, CDC data shows

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

A healthcare worker prepares a syringe with a vial of the J&J/Janssen Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination site at Grand Central Terminal train station on May 12 in New York City.
A healthcare worker prepares a syringe with a vial of the J&J/Janssen Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination site at Grand Central Terminal train station on May 12 in New York City. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Black, Hispanic and Asian people are still not getting vaccinated at the same rates as White people, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. 

CDC data shows these groups represent a smaller share of people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 than their share of the US population overall.

Black people account for 8.5% of those fully vaccinated, but 12.4% of the total US population, and Hispanic people represent 11% of those fully vaccinated, although they make up 17% of the US population. The gap among Asian people is smaller, accounting for 5.3% of those fully vaccinated compared to 5.8% of the population. 

But non-Hispanic White people are notably overrepresented among those fully vaccinated. White people make up 61.2% of the US population, but 65.8% of those fully vaccinated. American Indian and Alaska Native people are also slightly overrepresented among those fully vaccinated, CDC data shows. 

This data is notably incomplete – race and ethnicity is known for less than two-thirds of people who are fully vaccinated – but the disparities have persisted. 

A month ago, vaccination coverage among White people was more than double that among Hispanic people and more than 75% higher than among Black people. That gap has started to close, but as of Wednesday, CDC data shows that the share of White people who are fully vaccinated is still about 66% higher than the share of Hispanic people who are fully vaccinated and 56% higher than the share of Black people who are fully vaccinated. 

Over the past two weeks, Hispanic people have been overrepresented in the share of people initiating vaccination, helping to close that gap. But Black people remain underrepresented, accounting for only about one in 10 people getting a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine. 

12:55 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021

California governor announces $4 billion for small businesses as part of economic recovery plan

From CNN's Stella Chan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a news conference on May 11 in Los Angeles.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a news conference on May 11 in Los Angeles. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

California Gov. Gavin Newsom will set aside $4 billion “the largest small business grant program in the country,” part of his pandemic recovery spending plan, he announced Thursday morning.

Newsom said the $4 billion infusion will include $1.5 billion in Covid-19 relief grants under his “California Comeback Plan,” allowing the Golden State to come “roaring back.”

“California is enjoying a $75.7 billion operation surplus,” he said during a virtual California Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Sacramento. “It’s never been stated or said by any governor in American history, let alone California,” boasting about the money that will go toward the state’s recovery.

The surplus, along with federal government money, will provide an opportunity to reimagine and reinvigorate the economy and get people back on their feet, he said optimistically. 

“It’s the resilience of our small business men and women, those that put everything out on the line, make a go of it, that create jobs and are the real economic engine of the prosperity that we are now enjoying in this state,” Newsom said.  

The money will go to current and new small business grant programs, ports, tax credit enhancements, including for the film industry.

“It’s the entrepreneurial spirit that makes this state great,” Newsom said, fondly remembering that his own small business venture led him to politics. 

The latest numbers: The state's low Covid-19 positivity rate and its high vaccination rates are a sign that the state is on its way to a June 15 reopening, the governor said. His weeklong rollout of the spending plan includes monies focused on homelessness, drought response, public education, and stimulus checks for residents.

“We talk about a light at the end of the tunnel, I don’t see light at the end of the tunnel, I see bright light at the end of the tunnel. California is coming roaring back,” he said.

11:06 a.m. ET, May 13, 2021

Most children with Covid-19 don’t show typical symptoms, research finds

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas

Most children infected with Covid-19 do not show typical symptoms, which means it may be difficult to find and diagnose them, researchers reported Thursday. 

A team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham examined data from 12,306 children in the US with lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 and found few had typical symptoms.

The team reported that 18.8% of the children exhibited non-specific symptoms, like fever and disturbances in their sense of taste or smell. Just 16.5% of the children exhibited respiratory symptoms, such as cough; 14% showed gastrointestinal symptoms, like nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain; 8% had rashes or other skin symptoms and 4.8% had headache or other neurological symptoms. 

About 5.3% of the patients were hospitalized. Among those hospitalized, 17.6% needed critical care services and 4.1% needed mechanical ventilation, the team reported in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

“Overall, our findings suggest that children and adolescents may have a milder course of illness compared with adults with COVID-19,” they wrote.

“Given the high prevalence of non-specific signs and symptoms and the fact that the majority of the patients lacked typical symptoms in our investigation, increased vigilance, innovative screening, and frequent testing is required among school-going children and their immediate contacts," the report added.

The team noted that the risk of hospitalization was higher among Black and Hispanic children than among White children. These racial disparities have been widely observed among adults and children during the coronavirus pandemic.

While children don’t appear to get as sick from Covid-19 as adults, the researchers said that understanding the symptoms – or lack of symptoms – that children experience when they are infected will help physicians provide appropriate treatment. 

10:38 a.m. ET, May 13, 2021

Biden administration will invest $7.4 billion to hire and train public health workers for pandemic response

From CNN's Kate Sullivan and Betsy Klein

The Biden administration will invest $7.4 billion to recruit and hire public health workers to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and prepare for future public health challenges, the White House announced Thursday.

The funding includes $4.4 billion to expand public health staffing for the Covid-19 response and support vaccination outreach, contact tracing and outbreak investigations.

It will also invest $3 billion to prepare for future pandemics and create a new program to modernize the public health workforce.

The funds, allocated from the American Rescue Plan, will support the hiring of additional school nurses to help schools reopen safely following the authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for adolescents ages 12-15.

"The funding announced today will allow the United States to expand its public health workforce, creating tens of thousands of jobs to support vaccinations, testing, contact tracing, and community outreach, and strengthen America's future public health infrastructure," the White House said in a fact sheet.

The announcement comes as more than 117.6 million people are fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and as the Biden administration races to get the remaining portion of the population their shots.

Nearly 59% of adults in America have had at least one Covid-19 vaccination, but some Americans are still hesitant about, or resistant to, getting the shot.

The US Food and Drug Administration's authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents makes another 5% of the American population eligible for vaccines.

The administration is also looking toward the future and will use part of the funds announced on Thursday to launch the Public Health AmeriCorps to recruit and build out a new workforce to respond to the country's future public health needs.

The CDC will increase funding for programs like the Epidemic Intelligence Service, a public health workforce that responds to local outbreaks, the Undergraduate Public Health Scholars Program and a fellowship that offers students from underrepresented backgrounds the opportunity to study infectious diseases and health disparities.

The federal health agency will use the funds to expand existing public health laboratory fellowship programs for laboratory science graduates and also implement a new public health internship program to allow undergraduate students to gain experience in public health laboratory settings.

The CDC will also create a new grant program to provide health departments that do not have sufficient resources with support so they can hire staff and allow those who were hired for the Covid-19 pandemic to continue their careers as public health professionals.

Key public health leaders, including former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, have said that it is imperative the US and other nations invest in public health infrastructure.

"The sad truth is that pandemics even deadlier than Covid could happen at any point in the future. Failure is an option, but success is possible. We must work together as a world and invest the financial and political capital, supported by technical expertise and effective global, regional, and national institutions, to make sure we are never again caught so unprepared," Frieden said in a recent op-ed.