By Maria Medina

SAN JOSE (KPIX — More than a year after the pandemic began, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that fully vaccinated Americans could bid farewell to their masks in most settings.

“This recommendation holds true whether you are inside or outside,” said President Joe Biden.

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The recommendation comes after new data showed daily cases dropped by one-third in the past two weeks with nearly half of U.S. adults fully vaccinated.

What’s more, the Cleveland Clinic found 99 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations involved those who were unvaccinated.

“A mask is kind of like a superhero having a shield, but a vaccine is having a force field around you, that’s how protective it is,” said University of California San Francisco Prof. of Medicine and infectious disease expert Dr. Monica Gandhi.

She added that she believes this is also a way to incentivize those who were on the fence or refused to get vaccinated, to finally get the shot.

“I’m almost positive that this is why the CDC made this decision,” Gandhi said. “If this would help anyone who is on the fence get motivated to take the vaccine that is a boost, because it helps us all the more and more of us that get the vaccine. Then we are done with this pandemic, that’s what herd immunity needs.”

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Chris Burrill, the executive director for San Jose State University’s Hammer Theatre Center, said the theater has been closed since the pandemic began but he’s hoping this means they’ll get to finally welcome back an audience soon.

“These next four weeks are going to be very interesting,” Burrill said about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to reopen the state and get rid of its colored tiers by June 15. “Once we open up to the public my vision is that no one (actors and musicians) will be masked. Right now it’s looking very encouraging and I’m really hoping for about six to eight weeks from now that we can begin to have activities safely inside our building again.”

He said all full-time employees were able to retain their jobs during the pandemic but they unfortunately had to let go of their part-time employees.

The next steps in reopening will be to come up with a public safety plan as well as hire concession-stand staff, ushers and stage hands.

Many industries are holding their breath at what the state will decide next.

It’s unclear when California will lift its mask mandate to follow the federal guidance. On Wednesday, Newsom said that some indoor mask mandates would still be in effect even after the state fully reopens on June 15.

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For now, the CDC’s recommendation includes wearing a mask in health care settings, on transportation such as planes and buses and inside workplaces that recommend face coverings. It’s also recommended that those who are immuno-compromised, but fully vaccinated, speak to their doctors about whether they should continue wearing a mask.