Simplified: Local doctors weigh in on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and, at the end of the day, it comes down to your own risk tolerance.

Why it matters:

  • With vaccination rates up and COVID-19 case rates down, the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel is in sight.
  • Masking and other prevention precautions won't be changing at patient-facing medical facilities for Sanford or Avera any time soon, but retailers and other businesses are relaxing mask rules in light of the new guidance.
  • Dr. Mike Wilde and Dr. Mike Elliott, chief medical officers with Sanford and Avera, respectively, both acknowledged it's natural to be hesitant to walk around unmasked after more than a year of wearing them, but they also both expressed confidence in the science behind the CDC guidance.

What doctors had to say

Elliott said it's not as simple as saying you're safe to unmask in every situation. At some level, it comes down to your risk tolerance.

"The data says only 50 percent of the population is fully vaccinated," he said. "So look to your left, and look to your right, and which one of those people is not fully vaccinated? And if one of those people isn’t vaccinated, should everybody be wearing masks? What is your own personal risk tolerance?"

Wilde agreed with the need for risk assessment, and he also noted the efficacy of the vaccine.

"Over 80 percent of our frontline healthcare workers, those providing direct patient care, have been vaccinated," he said. "I think that's a strong endorsement of how we feel about the vaccine. And 94 percent of our physicians have been vaccinated."

Any other advice?

"I would ask for all of us just to have a little grace," Elliott said, "to just recognize we're all going through this. Things are changing relatively quickly. Whatever the new normal is going to be, I don't think we've figured that out yet."