The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updates its guidelines Tuesday about wearing masks when you are outdoors. It said fully vaccinated Americans do not need to cover their faces with masks anymore when they are in a small crowd.
Also, the CDC said unvaccinated people can go outside without a mask in certain situations.
The CDC had been advising Americans to wear a face mask when they are outdoors, especially if they are within 6 feet of one another.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, “Today, I hope, is a day when we can take another step back to the normalcy of before. 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 new guidelines come as more than half of the U.S. population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while more than one-third have been fully vaccinated.
Dr. Walensky said the new recommendations were driven by rising rates of vaccination and declining COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Saag of the University of Alabama at Birmingham has welcomed the change.
He said, “It’s the return of freedom. It’s the return of us being able to do normal activities again. We’re not there yet, but we’re on the exit ramp. And that’s a beautiful thing.”
Some experts, including President Joe Biden, have accepted the change and called the relaxed guidance a reward and a motivator for more people to get vaccinated.
Biden said, “The bottom line is clear: If you’re vaccinated, you can do more things, more safely, both outdoors as well as indoors. 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 said unvaccinated people should wear masks at small outdoor gatherings and should keep their faces covered when dining at outdoor restaurants with friends from multiple households.
The health agency also said that everyone, irrespective of fully vaccinated or not, should keep wearing facemasks at crowded outdoor events such as concerts or sporting events. Dr. Walensky explained, “Right now it’s very hard to tease apart who is vaccinated,” adding that the new guidelines should be a model for states to set their mask-wearing requirements.