Masks at CA: What’s Required and Why
We are in the midst of an exciting transition, one that moves us toward a summer that feels a little more like the ones we know and love in the Columbia community. Trends associated with positivity rates, case numbers and vaccinations continue to improve.
As we go through this process, everyone’s perception of “normal” is going to look a little different. Many of us are vaccinated. Some are not. A lot of us live with young children, and others simply aren’t ready to be completely mask-free.
Just like you, CA is shifting. We continue to evaluate guidelines from national, state and local experts, and we will never stop prioritizing your safety. Our team believes every person deserves to feel safe, healthy and comfortable in CA spaces.
What’s changing (and what’s not)
Starting Saturday, May 22, fully vaccinated individuals have the option to remove their masks in our outdoor spaces. That includes those of you who plan to come out to our neighborhood pools this summer.
Also starting Saturday, May 22, members and guests who are fully vaccinated will be able to remove their masks while exercising on cardio machines and during cardio or HIIT (high-intensity interval training) classes. Anyone actively swimming also does not need to wear a mask.
It is important to note that as more of us become fully vaccinated and more of the young members of our community have the opportunity to be vaccinated, CA expects to lift mask requirements for vaccinated individuals. We anticipate this happening by the end of June.
However, at this time, masks are still required inside of CA facilities when not participating in activities mentioned above.
A lot of thought and care went into this and all decisions made during the pandemic. We know other agencies and corporations have chosen a different path, but our team truly believes this is the best course of action for CA and the Columbia community. Here are just a few reasons why:
Safety first… always
CA has always prioritized the safety of our members, guests and neighbors. That focus has been even greater during the pandemic. We have a core role in promoting wellness throughout the entire community, and we take that role seriously. In doing so, we have consistently put the health of those we serve and employ above all other considerations and will continue to do so.
Some may argue the decision to maintain a mask requirement indoors runs contrary to the latest CDC guidelines, but we have closely monitored and relied on the latest scientific findings and expert advice throughout the pandemic for guidance. These health organizations are focused on informing us as individuals. While each person’s actions undoubtedly matter when we’re talking about overcoming this pandemic, CA’s mission requires us to think a little differently. As such, we have been more cautious many times during the pandemic. Our team and medical advisors continue to look at the community as a whole, making decisions that aren’t just the best for you or your neighbor, but ones that help us all stay healthy together.
Approximately one of every five people living in Columbia is under the age of 18, and we cannot ignore our responsibility to keep those young people safe. The county has officially relaxed mandates in most places, but masks are still required inside of schools and daycares. Vaccinations only recently became available to children 12 and older. Only about 8% of Howard County’s kids and teenagers are fully vaccinated.¹
Thousands of families rely on our facilities for childcare, recreational activities and wellness. And let’s face it, parents have been through a lot already. By providing families with another month of mask wearing as more kids get vaccinated, we are serving and supporting those of us that do not yet have that option.
Looking out for the team
Our team members have worked tirelessly over the past year to make CA’s facilities and programs available in whatever capacity possible. Those team members are the reason CA were able to confidently open our doors and invite you back. They have adapted countless times, always with a smile under their masks.
For those of you who frequent CA facilities, you know a number of our team members are in the age bracket that has only recently been offered the opportunity to be vaccinated. By requiring masks indoors for another few weeks, we are safeguarding those CA team members – your friends, family and neighbors – from unnecessary risk.
Masks are always welcome
As we mentioned, there will soon come a day when those who are vaccinated will be given the option to remove their masks indoors. That said, CA will always be a place where masks, face coverings and other safety precautions are welcome.
This organization will continue to utilize some of the tools we have picked up over the last year, like increased air exchange and UV sanitizing fans and. You’ll likely see CA team members sporting masks well after they’re required.
Masks are one of many effective tools we all have at our disposal to protect ourselves and others from serious illness. Plus, some of us just feel safer with it on, and that’s OK.
So as we enter the next phase of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, please remember that we’re still in it together. Columbia is a community of diverse values and viewpoints. We also choose civility. CA encourages everyone to practice mutual respect for each other’s choices as we soak in everything there is to enjoy about summer.
We have come this far together, and we are almost there.
¹ The latest U.S. Census data shows approximately 78,817 people under the age of 18 live in Howard County. According to the Howard County vaccine distribution dashboard, about 6,473 kids and teenagers (10 to 19 years old) are reported to be fully vaccinated as of May 19, 2021.