A confrontation between Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and a number of reporters on Wednesday has led to confusion about what is or isn’t acceptable when it comes to masking and social distancing, after one has received their vaccinations for coronavirus.
As of this week, more than 87 million Americans have been vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As that number continues to increase, understanding how to act and interact with others after getting fully vaccinated is an important thing to know.
Unfortunately, Cruz, a United States senator, doesn’t seem to have a complete understanding of how things work right now.
The claim: Cruz insists he doesn’t need a mask
Cruz held a small press conference on Wednesday where he appeared without wearing a mask. Reporters asked him to put one on, but Cruz refused to do so.
“Would you mind putting a mask on for us?” one reporter said to Cruz as the press conference began.
— BNTW CLIPS (@BNTW_1) March 25, 2021
“Uh, yeah, when I’m talking in front of the TV cameras I’m not going to wear a mask. And all of us have been immunized,” Cruz responded, referring to himself and other lawmakers in Congress. (That comment, on its own, isn’t true.)
The same reporter said that him wearing a mask “would make us feel better.” But Cruz wouldn’t back down from his original position.
“You’re welcome to step away if you like. The whole point of a vaccine — CDC guidance is what we’re following,” Cruz responded.
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What the CDC actually says on vaccines and masks
Cruz’s comments don’t align with what the CDC says about social distancing. Even after someone has gotten fully vaccinated for COVID-19, the health agency strongly recommends still wearing a mask in a number of situations.
What does “fully vaccinated” actually mean? A person becomes fully vaccinated only after two weeks following their final shot for the virus, the CDC states.
That means, if someone received both doses of the Pfizer-based vaccine, for example, that they’d be fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose.
Even after being vaccinated, however, a person still has to exercise precautions. It’s not fully understood yet whether someone who is fully vaccinated can still spread the virus or not, even if they are more protected against it. So to prevent the spread of COVID-19, masking is still needed, to protect others.
When it comes to indoor settings — like the press conference that Cruz was holding, for example — the CDC says that vaccinated individuals can gather with unvaccinated people without a mask on, but only in special circumstances, like if the un-vaccinated individuals are from a single household. In other situations, where everyone within two or more separate groups of people are gathering, such events are fine to not wear a mask, as long as everyone involved has been fully vaccinated.
If you are fully vaccinated against #COVID19, you can safely gather for #Seder with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks. Learn more about CDC’s new recommendations for fully vaccinated people: https://t.co/FJMon7WlFO. pic.twitter.com/GXGYOCvUHT
— CDC (@CDCgov) March 26, 2021
In the case of reporters taking part in Cruz’s press event, it’s highly unlikely that they all lived in the same dwelling. Thus, even if Cruz was vaccinated, if any of those reporters were still waiting to get their shots, it would be more appropriate, under CDC guidelines, for Cruz to have worn a mask while in close proximity with them.
Cruz has made similar mask mistakes before
This isn’t the first COVID-related mistake the Texas senator has made when it comes to falsely suggesting he’s knowledgeable about CDC guidelines. In October last year, for instance, Cruz also took off his mask while speaking to reporters in the Capitol building’s corridors.
When asked why he wouldn’t wear a mask while speaking, Cruz said he was a safe distance away from them. As The Hill reported at the time, the senator said he was “standing six feet apart, which is what the CDC guideline is.”
— Reuters (@Reuters) October 16, 2020
In fact, the CDC guidelines at the time stated that six feet apart AND wearing a mask was the acceptable way to handle oneself. Not one or the other.
In case you might have missed it, a pattern is emerging here: when Ted Cruz says his actions, which might cause others discomfort or alarm, are aligned with CDC policy, chances are, he’s wrong.
It’s clear that Cruz is wrong on this one. But is he the only one?
Some have noted that press conferences held by President Joe Biden and Press Secretary Jen Psaki do not feature those individuals wearing masks. That may be a valid point to bring up, and to ask them why it’s alright to not wear masks.
Notably, however, those briefings feature much higher degrees of distancing than did Cruz’s press conference on Wednesday.
— Staci D Kramer (@sdkstl) March 25, 2021
Cruz, however, insisted that he was doing “by the book” by not wearing a mask after getting vaccinated and being in close proximity to others, namely reporters, who had not gotten shots of the vaccines yet. That assertion from Cruz is false — vaccinated individuals still need to wear masks, for the time being, per CDC guidelines, when in close proximity to others.