The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States eased its guidelines on Tuesday on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers.
Those who are not vaccinated can go outside without masks in some situations.
The new guidance represents another calibrated step on the road back to normal from the coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 570,000 people in United States. For most of the past year, the CDC had been advising Americans to wear masks outdoors if they are within 6 feet (1.8 meters) of one another.
“Today, I hope, is a day when we can take another step back to the normalcy of before,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said. “Over the past year, we have spent a lot of time telling Americans what you can’t do. Today, I am going to tell you some of the things you can do, if you are fully vaccinated.”
The change comes as more than half of US adults — or about 140 million people — have received at least one dose of vaccine, and more than a third have been fully vaccinated.
Walensky said the decision was driven by rising vaccination numbers; declines in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths; and research showing that less than 10 percent of documented instances of transmission of the virus happened outdoors.
Some experts portrayed the relaxed guidance as a reward and a motivator for more people to get vaccinated — a message President Joe Biden sounded, too.
“The bottom line is clear: If you’re vaccinated, you can do more things, more safely, both outdoors as well as indoors,” Biden said. “So for those who haven’t gotten their vaccinations yet, especially if you’re younger or thinking you don’t need it, this is another great reason to go get vaccinated now.”
The CDC essentially endorsed what many Americans have already been doing over the past several weeks.
The CDC says that whether they are fully vaccinated or not, people do not have to wear masks outdoors when they walk, bike or run alone or with members of their household. They can also go maskless in small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated people.
But unvaccinated people, defined as those who have yet to receive both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson formula, should wear masks at small outdoor gatherings that include other unvaccinated people, the CDC says. They also should keep their faces covered when dining at outdoor restaurants with friends from multiple households.
And everyone, fully vaccinated or not, should keep wearing masks at crowded outdoor events, the CDC says.