Many Americans were certainly grateful to hear that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was changing its recommendation guidelines regarding mask use this week, but the announcement has also led to some confusion in regards to how those who have received their COVID-19 vaccinations can prove their status in order to freely go about in public without a mask on their face for the first time since the pandemic began.

The CDC’s announcement on Thursday stated that those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can resume pre-pandemic activities, including no longer needing to social distance or wear masks indoors or outdoors, except where mandates still applied. The rule also did not apply in certain public settings and situations, such as when in airports or using public transportation.

While the news was something many had long awaited to hear, it also led to some expressing concern over how vaccination status could be proven in most public settings, and what could prevent those are were against mask use and the vaccination from simply claiming they could safely forego their mask. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done to guarantee that everyone who stops wearing a mask is truly vaccinated, according to CBS News.

While states like New York have begun piloting a form of a “vaccine passport” in the Excelsior Pass app, most states don’t have similar systems, and some, like Florida, have actually banned so-called passports from use. In addition, forged vaccine cards that were created by the federal government, which have allowed Americans to keep track of their vaccination status as well, are also on the rise, which could also help those who wish to go without a mask do so—even if they don’t have full protection from the virus. This causes concern because many who still choose not to be vaccinated are also already less likely to wear a mask.

The concerns are also arising because of warnings from the CDC and World Health Organization that even more deadly surges of the pandemic could still surface and completely undermine all the progress that had been made, and unvaccinated people abandoning the use of masks would greatly contribute to that risk.

Still, with the guidelines changing, some change is on the horizon in public, indoor settings. While some retailers are still not releasing a final decision on what their masking policies will be, others have announced that they will no longer require mask use in their stores.

Walmart and Costco are two of the retailers who announced their plans to change their policies, with the discount chain announcing that except in areas where mandates were still in effect by local or state ordinance, customers could immediately forego wearing their masks, and they wouldn’t require proof of vaccination from those who came inside. The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart will allow employees to discontinue mask use beginning on May 18. Employees will need to have proof of their vaccination status.

Trader Joe’s is also planning on dropping masking requirements for vaccinated customers.

The top US health authority now says fully vaccinated people don't need to wear masks in most indoor settings
The top US health authority now says fully vaccinated people don't need to wear masks in most indoor settings AFP / JOEL SAGET