The science behind lifting mask rules, and why some vaccinated people will wear them anyway

Posted at 10:21 PM, May 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-16 09:37:11-04

(WXYZ) — May 15 marked the first day out of the house with no mask mandate for vaccinated people in the state of Michigan. However, at stores like Kroger, the masks are still on.

“I'm still practicing safe measures, I think it’s important,” said shopper Robert Mitchell.

Kroger still has its mask policy in place, but some vaccinated shoppers say even without it, they’d still wear one.

“I'm gonna be wearing my mask everywhere I go, for now,” said shopper Emmanuel Chukwu. "I think it’s a little too premature to say if you've been vaccinated you can go without a mask.”

Even with the green light from the CDC, many people don't feel comfortable in public without a mask on, knowing many others are still not vaccinated.

“In a lot of ways it’s like people returning from a war zone,” said Jeffrey Guina, Chief Medical Officer at Easterseals Michigan.

Guina spent a decade as a military psychologist, and says adjusting back to normal life will take time.

“We get used to stressful situations and then to suddenly change our thinking, to change our behavior, to change our feelings, that's hard, that’s hard for everybody,” Guina said.

Director of Infectious Disease research for Beaumont Health Dr. Matthew Sims says lifting the mask requirement for those vaccinated is a big step forward, and is based on studies.

“This is a question of science and proof, and it’s there, it’s that simple,” Dr. Sims said. "Out of all the people that have been vaccinated, its like a .01 percent breakthrough rate, that’s exceedingly tiny.”

In fact, the CDC guidance on masks was made in light of a new study released just this week, showing in real-world settings the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are both 94% effective.

“If everybody is safe, and we’ve now shown this with real-world studies where we follow people and watch how they do, it’s time to put our trust in the vaccine and start removing some of those restrictions for vaccinated people,” Dr. Sims said.

Those vaccinated people keeping their mask on say it’s a lack of trust in unvaccinated people, not the vaccine itself, that causes them to take extra precautions.

“People who are not vaccinated can just as well remove their mask and join the crowd,” Chukwu said. "How do you enforce it?”

"I don't think the world is ever going to be the same again, but I do trust the vaccination,” Mitchell said.