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Important Update for US Residents: CDC Announcement Regarding Masks
17 May, 2021

As many of you in the US are now aware, the CDC issued new recommendations for fully vaccinated people in non-healthcare settings (see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html).

The guidelines state the following:

  • Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance
  • Fully vaccinated people can refrain from testing following a known exposure unless they are residents or employees of a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter
More specifically, fully vaccinated people can:
  • Resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, or rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance
  • Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel
  • Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States
  • Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings
  • Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic
  • Refrain from routine screening testing if feasible

But, continue to:

  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations

Be aware, however, that CDC guidelines for those working in a healthcare setting do raise a cautionary note for those who are immunocompromised (see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/infection-control-after-vaccination.html):

  • Currently, there are limited data on vaccine protection in people who are immunocompromised. Further, data on which immunocompromising conditions might affect response to the COVID-19 vaccine and the magnitude of risk are not available. Examples of such immunocompromising conditions likely include, but might not be limited to, receiving chemotherapy for cancer, hematologic malignancies, being within one year from receiving a hematopoietic stem cell or solid organ transplant, untreated HIV infection with CD4 T lymphocyte count < 200, combined primary immunodeficiency disorder, and taking immunosuppressive medications (e.g., drugs to suppress rejection of transplanted organs or to treat rheumatologic conditions such as mycophenolate and rituximab, receipt of prednisone >20mg/day for more than 14 days.) In general, healthcare facilities should continue to follow the infection prevention and control recommendations for unvaccinated individuals (e.g., quarantine, testing) when caring for fully vaccinated individuals with an immunocompromising condition.

What does this mean for WM patients and their families?

  • First, if you haven’t already done so, get vaccinated (and impress upon your family and friends to also get vaccinated, to help protect you against COVID-19).
  • Second, if you have been vaccinated, be aware that there is the possibility that you did not mount a sufficient response to the COVID-19 vaccine due to your immunocompromised condition.  This means that you may have to be judicious about your venturing out in public and in what settings you should wear a mask. Remember, as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  • Even before the pandemic, patients (and their families) have been encouraged to wear masks in certain situations, especially during active treatment that suppresses the immune system to beat back the WM disease state. Whether in treatment or not, if you’re unsure of your vaccine response, it may be prudent to continue to wear masks in certain situations.
  • As always, consult with your medical team for guidance and advice that’s specific to your particular health situation.
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