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CDC Says No More Masks for the Fully-Vaxxed; LOU Leaders Cautiously Optimistic About Return to Business as Usual

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement on Thursday that fully vaccinated Americans can take off their masks inside and no longer must socially distance inside most places is another step toward normalcy across the nation.

​In the LOU Community, businesses are reopening and public gatherings are accelerating as more and more Americans become vaccinated and positivity rates of COVID-19 continue to fall.

​As he was setting up for the Chamber Picnic at the Pavilion, Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce’s first large-scale public event since March 2020, President and CEO Jon Maynard said the breaking news that the CDC had revised their mask wearing recommendations was worth celebrating.

​“We are excited to see progress in the community getting back to normal – the country getting back to normal. We are excited about getting things back to normal and for people to remain cautious, but go out and spend money locally,” he said.

​Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves lifted most of the state’s remaining COVID-19 capacity restrictions on May 1, but continued to encourage individuals to wear masks at indoor events. Now that is no longer necessary, and the CDC no longer recommends that fully vaccinated people wear masks outdoors in crowds.

​The CDC only recommends masks for fully vaccinated individuals in large, crowded indoor spaces like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters. However, unvaccinated individuals still need to wear masks, which is sure to breed confusion as there is no way for businesses or others to distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated patrons.

​A full-vaccinated individual is defined by the CDC as someone who is two weeks past the last required COVID-19 vaccine dose.  To date about 154 million Americans, more than 46 percent of the population, have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines and more than 117 million are fully vaccinated. The rate of new vaccinations has slowed in recent weeks, but with the authorization Wednesday of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, a new burst of doses is expected in the coming days.

​The Mississippi State Department of Health reported on Monday that 974,542 Mississippians have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, representing about 33 percent of the population, but only approximately 839,000 have been fully inoculated. Officials say the rate of vaccination has dropped 65 percent in recent weeks compared to the peak in February.

​Vaccinations can be scheduled online using the state’s online scheduler at covidvaccine.umc.edu and as of 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 13, the Lafayette County Walk-In Vaccination showed 979 first shot appointments available.

​ COVID-19 continues to circulate in the LOU community. The Mayo Clinic is reporting Lafayette County is seeing an average of three new cases of the virus a day – and statewide Mississippi is reporting 215 new cases daily. However, nine new cases were reported on Tuesday in the county, and 233 statewide, the last day new data was available. ​and many businesses and employers are continuing to be closed to the public and allow their employees to work from home.

​Maynard said although many businesses have reopened, they continue to face worker shortages, and many businesses and employers are continuing to be closed to the public and allow their employees to work from home.

​“I think we’re still a long way from normal,” said Maynard. “The people who were going to go back early, have gone back. There are other corporations, who out of an abundance of caution are still delaying things.”

Maynard noted there are several large companies in the region that have vowed to allow people to work remotely through the end of the year.

​He continues to be hopeful however that the barriers preventing a return to more normal economic activity in the region – and across the country – are slowly being removed.

​“Just that steady stream of making improvements in the accessibility is going to make a huge difference in people coming back to work,” he said.