Peoria medical professionals still promoting safety, caution after CDC new mask guidance

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – A change in guidance, Thursday, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sparked relieving news for those fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The CDC announced those who’ve gotten the potentially life-saving shot can relax on wearing masks and social distancing, both indoors and outdoors.

The news went over well with some Peorians conditioned to wearing masks over the past year.

“It’s going to be nice to just go outside without having to remember to mask,” Nathan McNaughton, a Bradley graduate, said. “There’s been a few times where I’ve come to the grocery store, looked in my car, and noticed I didn’t have my mask there.”

“Once you’re vaccinated, you know, it’s wonderful that you can go without a mask,” Barbara Solomon said.

The CDC clarified the changes don’t apply in healthcare settings, on public transportation, such as buses and airplanes, and any setting where masks are required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

But some community members said they’re still excited about the step towards normalcy.

“I feel like it’s going to be really nice to just hang out with friends again or just, you know, walk around without having to wear a mask,” McNaughton said.

However, the announcement generated cautious optimism from local medical professionals.

“I think we have to realize that this [COVID-19] will be with us for a while and no one is 100% safe,” Dr. Steve Hippler, Chief Clinical Officer with OSF HealthCare said. “For me, I think it’s a great next step, but I would still caution everyone to continue to be careful.”

Hippler said he wants to remind the public the virus isn’t gone yet and people should still practice safety measures.

“Continue to wash your hands, sneeze into your arm and not cough in the open air, stay away from people who are sick,” Hippler said.

He said airing on the safe side has kept COVID-19 cases, influenza, and respiratory diseases down, and getting complacent and lapsing on those measures could result in a step backward.

“Now that we unmask, or those who vaccinated unmask, and start mingling more freely, I think we have to expect an increase in respiratory diseases and possibly more COVID,” Hippler said.

Hippler said he’s also encouraging everyone who isn’t vaccinated to get the vaccine, hoping to keep COVID cases down.

“We believe that it does a very good job of preventing hospitalizations, severities, and death,” Hippler said. “My hope is that the data that now has been gathered from over 100 million vaccinations in the United States is enough to really convince people the importance of getting vaccinated.”

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