CDC Eases Mask Restrictions for Fully Vaccinated Individuals

CDC updates mask guidelines for vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans.

Fully vaccinated Americans can now go outside without masks when walking, jogging, or biking or dining with friends at outdoor restaurants. These new guidelines are for individuals who are 2 weeks past their second Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech dose or 2 weeks past their single Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Federal health officials made the recommendations after studies demonstrated breezes disperse airborne virus particles, while humidity and sunlight render the virus less viable.

Masking is still recommended in crowded outdoor areas such as stadiums where distancing is not possible. Indoors, masking is still recommended for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

New guidelines have been announced for unvaccinated individuals as well, although officials stress getting vaccinated is the most important step to take to help reduce transmission. Unvaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks outdoors when with other unvaccinated individuals, and when dining at outdoor restaurants. However, when unvaccinated individuals run, bike or jog alone or with members of their household, they do not need to be masked.

“If you are fully vaccinated and want to attend a small outdoor gathering with people who are vaccinated and unvaccinated or dine at an outdoor restaurant with friends from multiple households, the science shows, if you're vaccinated, you can do so safely,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, during a press briefing. She added most data suggest transmission happens in indoor settings as opposed to outdoors.

At this point, over 570,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States, but more than half of US adults have received at least 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than one third are fully vaccinated. Across the country rates of new infections have begun to plateau.

“I know that the quarantine and shutdown throughout the pandemic have been exhausting. I know that we all miss the things that we used to do before the pandemic and I know that we all want to get back to doing those things that we love and soon. Today is another day we can take a step back to the normalcy of before,” Walensky said. “If you are fully vaccinated, things are much safer for you than those who are not yet fully vaccinated.”

Individuals who are unvaccinated should continue to limit their interactions with other people.

During remarks after the announcement, President Joe Biden emphasized that vaccinated individuals still need to wear masks in crowded areas outside. But “the bottom line is clear, if you're vaccinated you can do more things, more safely, both outdoors as well as indoors,” Biden said.

“For those who haven't gotten their vaccination yet, especially if you're younger, or think you don't need it, this is another great reason to go get vaccinated now,” he added.

The president also emphasized that US society would have a quicker return to a semblance of normalcy if more individuals decided to get vaccinated. More plans on the country’s fight against COVID-19 are expected in a separate address slated for next week.

“In the meantime, I urge all Americans, don’t let up now. Keep following the guidance. Go get your vaccination,” Biden said.

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