By Kristina Rex

BOSTON (CBS) – Some local epidemiologists were surprised — yet pleased — with the CDC’s Thursday announcement that fully vaccinated people are safe to drop their masks in nearly all settings, regardless of social distancing.

“It is a big day,” Tufts Medical Center epidemiologist Dr. Shira Doron told WBZ. “It’s happening a little earlier than I expected.”

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So far, Governor Baker has said that Massachusetts rules will stay the same, requiring masks in all indoor settings. “The Administration welcomes the new CDC guidance and will be updating Massachusetts’ COVID restrictions in the near future,” the governor said in a statement. “In the meantime, the current mask order remains in place.”

Dr. Doron tells WBZ the new guidance makes sense and is based on epidemiological data. “These vaccines are an absolute miracle of modern medicine,” she said. “We can feel comfortable doing pretty much everything we used to do [once vaccinated].”

She says Massachusetts is already seeing the positive effects of widespread vaccination, with more than 3 million people fully vaccinated. “What we do know, and we know this mostly from countries that are ahead of us in vaccinations, is that there is a point at which we have vaccinated enough adults that we start to see cases begin to plummet, and we are seeing cases plummet,” she said.

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The challenge moving forward, she says, is policy. “I actually think it is easier to make rules that apply to everyone all at once,” she said. “I think this is tricky, and I’m curious to see how Massachusetts handles it.”

When asked how states can expect to enforce this new guidance once it’s implemented, President Biden said Thursday it would be more or less on the honor system.

“You are going to have indoor spaces, including here in Massachusetts – it has to happen at some point – where there are going to be a mixture of people who are truly vaccinated and safe, and those who just want to pretend that they’re vaccinated but don’t want to wear their mask,” Dr. Doron explained. “But they’re not posing a risk to the vaccinated people, because their vaccines protect them.”

At this point, Dr. Doron says unvaccinated people are the ones at risk in all situations. “If you aren’t vaccinated and you take off your mask, that’s really your choice,” she explained. “You’re only putting yourself at risk.”

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To find out more about COVID vaccinations in Massachusetts and where you can get one visit mass.gov/covid-19-vaccine.

Kristina Rex