A number of right-wing websites and commentators are criticizing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) for her decision to continue wearing a mask after being fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. But their criticisms have obfuscated what guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) actually says about the matter.
Ocasio-Cortez announced in an Instagram story this week that she was going to continue wearing her mask in public, and that others who also wanted to do so shouldn’t feel bad about it.
“If you want to keep wearing your mask then do it. Personally I’m going to keep wearing my mask in shared indoor public spaces like elevators, subway, grocery store, etc.,” the New York congresswoman wrote.
Ocasio-Cortez noted that, for many of her constituents, the new guidance might seem too quick, and that they might feel more secure wearing their masks for a little while longer.
“NYC got hit so hard that I think some of us are going to take time adjusting as we feel comfortable,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
“Mask wearing is also something I’ll probably continue doing overall from time to time if I feel like I might be coming down with something and don’t want to spread it,” she added.
Ocasio-Cortez also joked in her Instagram story that her masks were “a nice accessory when you don’t want to do all your makeup” — a comment that at least one right-wing website chose to focus on instead of all of her other points.
The far right conservative site The Blaze wrote Ocasio-Cortez “defies CDC guidance” and included her comments on makeup in its headline, implying that it was the motivating factor behind her decision to keep wearing a mask.
“Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the latest left-wing figure to not believe the science and defy the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the website, which frequently produces content that isn’t factual, wrote in its first paragraph on the subject of Ocasio-Cortez’s mask advice.
Fox News also dedicated some reporting to Ocasio-Cortez’s comments, with its headline noting she was making this decision “despite being fully vaccinated.”
Right-wing provocateurs on social media also launched missives at the congresswoman. Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, sarcastically asked, “Is this what ‘following the science’ looks like?” in response to Ocasio-Cortez’s comments. And Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren quipped, in an insulting and demeaning manner, that she was happy about the lawmaker’s decision, as it would be “harder to see and hear her that way.”
While the implication is that Ocasio-Cortez is ignoring guidance from the CDC, in truth she’s actually following advice that the agency has laid out as appropriate for people to do.
According to the CDC website, “fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing.” But the guidance doesn’t stop there, adding that masks still need to be worn where they are “required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
New York City, where Ocasio-Cortez’s home district is, has not yet lifted its mask mandate. Masks are still required in her place of work, within the halls of Congress, as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) noted last week.
When Pelosi was asked by reporters whether the House would end its rules on masking in light of new CDC guidelines for vaccinated individuals, Pelosi answered with a resounding “no,” noting that many lawmakers have refused to get vaccinated so far.
As of last week, seventy-two percent of House members were vaccinated, but there was a wide discrepancy between Democratic and Republican lawmakers, with all members of the Democratic conference being fully vaccinated but only 95 of the 212 Republican House members having done the same.
Much of the United States still has to get vaccinated, too. So far, 48 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, while just 37 percent are fully vaccinated as of Tuesday morning.
The new CDC guidance, which is tailored solely for those who have been fully vaccinated, is confusing, noted Truthout’s William Rivers Pitt, who opined this week that it will lead to many places reopening despite large populations in many areas not getting vaccinated.
“The consternation over these new rules is palpable,” Pitt wrote. “Vaccinated folks can unmask, which is super, great, but who is vaccinated and who isn’t? We’re doing the honor system now?”