Seacoast Fishermen Help Get CDC Mask Guideline Changed
After Seacoast fishermen explained the difficulties of wearing masks onboard commercial fishing boats to U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, officials at the CDC changed their guidance.
New guidance stating that fully vaccinated fisherman no longer need to wear a mask while outdoors on their boat or at a transportation hub went into effect on Friday.
Before the new rules took effect, the crew risked being ticketed if they were inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard, according to Linda Hunt, general manager of Yankee Fishermen’s Co-Op in Seabrook, NH.
"They're just doing their job," Hunt said about the Coast Guard.
Hunt said that wearing a mask hinders communication between captains and their crew on noisy, busy fishing boats. Facial expressions and body language are important to help the fisherman get their jobs done.
"The captain has to read lips while people are talking because you got the engine running, the hydraulics running. It's just a major safety issue if you got your mouth covered up. You've got water blowing, soaking wet masks, fish guts, you're trying to gut fish, move stuff around," Hunt told Seacoast Current.
Hunt said that the average person just walking down the street will touch their mask numerous times. A fisherman has to adjust their mask while gutting fish with a knife in their hand.
"Guts are flying around, the thing keeps sagging down. Now what happens when the guy mistakenly has a knife in his hand and he goes to move his mask because he's just trying to get s**t done, and stabs himself in the face?" Hunt said. "It's not likely to happen but it's not out of the realm (of possibilities)."
Many boat captains have hearing issues after years of standing on top of a diesel engine, according to Hunt.
Hunt said Hassan listened to their concerns and brought it to the attention of CDC Director Rochelle Walensky during a hearing.
"I want to thank New Hampshire’s fishermen for their successful advocacy to remove this outdated requirement and for speaking out about the challenges they face. This updated guidance is welcome news for fishermen in New Hampshire and across the country, and I urge the CDC and Coast Guard to continue to update guidance based on the science," Hassan said in a statement.
Hunt was upset that the guideline which included all public maritime vessels, even ferries, was there in the first place for commercial fishing boats.
"People in these positions make these big rules that are blankets. Well, guess what? It's like America. We're not one color. Every situation is different and they need to realize it's a commercial boat. It's not the same as a ferry. People are out there working," Hunt said.
The revised CDC guidelines still require all crew to wear masks while boarding, disembarking and indoors while traveling.