HOUSTON, TX - The CDC says fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or socially distance.
"If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. Based on the continuing downward trajectory of cases, the scientific data on the performance of our vaccines, and our understanding of how the virus spreads, that moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated," said Rochelle Walensky, M.D., the CDC director.
Thursday’s updated guidance from the CDC marked a turning point in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those fully vaccinated can now take off their masks, outdoors and indoors, and not worry about social distancing in any group-sized gathering unless a business or workplace requires otherwise.
"I can’t wait to stop talking about masks," said Bobby Heugel, owner of The Pastry War bar downtown.
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Heugel says the return to ‘normalcy’ is something he’s been waiting for, for over a year.
"Soon we will announce a date when we will no longer require masks inside, which for us is a big deal, because I feel like we have been one of the more vocal groups about this needing to be important for the safety of our staff," Heugel said.
Heugel said his businesses will likely relax their COVID restrictions for both guests and staff, sometime in the next week or so.
Currently, his restaurants and bars don’t require a mask outdoors, but do indoors when walking around.
When it comes to checking who's vaccinated or not, Heugel says his operations won’t be enforcing that.
"I’m not sure it's possible for the hospitality industry to determine who’s vaccinated in a space and who's not at any given point in time. I mean we’re talking about hundreds of people being in a room," Heugel said.
Legally, the rules for requiring or verifying who’s vaccinated can get tricky. FOX 26 legal analyst Chris Tritico explains.
"If you’re on a federal property they can require that, but states can pass their own laws. Texas is going to ensure that Texas citizens do not have to have a vaccine passport. Once you pass the law, that’s going to get around the HIPPA requirements because the law will supersede HIPPA in that respect. If you think about it, every state requires that kids be vaccinated before they start public school," Tritico said.
There are still exceptions to the guidance.
TSA said the federal mask requirements remain the same until mid-September, which means travelers on planes, buses, trains will still have to wear a mask until then.
Masks will also still be required at hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters.