Opposition to the Recent CDC Mask Guidelines for Fully Vaccinated People
The disability-led organizations, disability rights leaders, individuals with disabilities, and allies undersigned are disheartened, confused and outraged about the recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance rescinding previous masking guidance. We join National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses in the U.S. and others in opposition to the new CDC guidance stating that “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks, avoid crowds or large gatherings, isolate after exposure, or get tested unless they develop symptoms.”
We recognize that there is new data supporting the low rate of contraction and transmission in individuals that are vaccinated. While the science is valid, the guidelines derived from it beg the question about the contraction and transmission of the virus by unvaccinated people. When unmasked outdoor and indoor interactions are sanctioned, for vaccinated people, unvaccinated people will also interact in these spaces with impunity. Across-the-board, we have learned mask mandates are the only way to attempt to prevent transmission of the virus.
The result of the new CDC guidance will be to spread the disease amongst unvaccinated people who elect not to wear masks. As of May 19, unvaccinated people constitute the majority of the US population. The proliferation of unvaccinated hosts can lead to new variants that are less or completely resistant to the vaccine.
Increased COVID-19 rates means increased disproportionate deaths rates of people with disabilities, which includes Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and other multiply marginalized people with disabilities. Disabled people died at a vastly disproportionate rate and are still continuing to die at high rates in nursing facilities and other institutions.
According to the New York Times, “While 4 percent of the country’s cases have occurred in long-term care facilities, deaths related to COVID-19 in these facilities account for about 32 percent of the country’s pandemic fatalities. Deaths in long-term care facilities accounted for more than a third of all COVID-19 deaths in the United States for much of the pandemic.”
The government has failed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially among multiply marginalized people with disabilities. Following the CDC’s May 13th guidance for fully vaccinated people, many disabled people and people at high-risk of contracting, being hospitalized, or dying from COVID-19 now have no choice but to continue wearing masks and/or staying home.
The guidelines disregard people at high-risk and many people with disabilities. This large percentage of the population are expected to stay masked while everyone is not, and/or stay home while everyone else goes out. This is blatant ableism throughout our already seriously ableist society and systems. This is leading to further discrimination against people at high-risk of contracting, being hospitalized, or dying from COVID-19 as we continue to try to survive this pandemic while everyone else is “moving on” as if the pandemic is over.
Even prior to last week’s CDC guidelines, people with disabilities, along with others, have experienced shaming, bullying and harassment because they choose to wear masks. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this is increasing due to the new CDC guidance.
We call on our disabled siblings and allies to continue to wear masks and use other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to keep yourself, your family and others safe. By doing this you are showing solidarity with all disabled people including multiply marginalized disabled people; and, others who choose to wear masks by compassionately and peacefully interrupting incidents of shaming, bullying and harassment due to wearing masks or using other types of PPE.
Accessible Resources for Independence Incorporated
Alliance Center for Independence
American Association of People with Disabilities
Atlantis Community, Inc.
Brazoria County Center for Independent Living (BCCIL)
Bronx Independent Living Services
Capital Region ADAPT
Center for Independence
Central PA ADAPT
Chicagoland Leadership Council
Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
Direct Advocacy & Resource Center
Disability Rights and Resources, Birmingham, AL
Disabled In Action of PA
Disability Advocacy Group: Pacific Northwest
Disabled Rights Action Committee (DRAC)
Fort Bend Center for Independent Living (FBCIL)
Gulf Coast ADAPT
Houston Center for Independent Living (HCIL)
Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley, Inc.
Indiana Statewide Independent Living Council
IMAGE Center of Maryland
Matt Cohen and Associates
National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)
Network of Occupational Therapy Practitioners with Disabilities & Supporters (NOTPD)
New Jersey Disability Collective
North Central PA ADAPT
OT Leaders and Legacies Society
PPE For People With Disabilities Coalition
Progress Center for Independent Living
South Carolina ADAPT
Southwest Center for Independence
Touch the Future Inc
US International Council on Disability (USICD)
World Institute on Disability
Yad HaChazakah - The Jewish Disability Empowerment Center
Christopher Lee Rollins
Curtis M Garrett II
Felicia Patch, MD
June Isaacson Kailes, Disability Policy Consultant
Terrence Rios Word