On April 27, the CDC (United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) announced that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to cover their faces when they are outdoors, unless they are in a tightly packed crowd of many strangers — for instance, in a stadium or at an outdoor concert.
This is a significant easing of previous guidelines: for nearly a year, the CDC has been recommending that Americans wear masks even outdoors if they will be within six feet of someone from another household.
“Today, I hope, is a day when we can take another step back to the normalcy of before,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, 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.”
Walensky said that the decision was driven in part by rising vaccination numbers. To date, more than half of the adults in the United States — or about 140 million people — have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Despite scattered COVID-19 “hot spots” — for instance, in Michigan — Walensky said that the decision was also driven by overall declines in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, and she cited research showing that less than 10 percent of documented instances of virus transmission happened outdoors.
The CDC recommends that all unvaccinated Americans continue wearing a mask outdoors and when they are indoors with unvaccinated people (including children) from more than one household.
Speaking about the new CDC guidelines, President Biden urged all Americans to get vaccinated. “The bottom line is clear,” he said. “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 vaccination yet, especially if you’re younger or thinking you don’t need it, this is another great reason to go get vaccinated — now. Now!”
The new CDC guidelines say that fully vaccinated people can safely:
• Gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying six feet apart.
• Gather indoors with unvaccinated people of any age from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks or staying six feet apart, unless any of those people, or anyone they live with, has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
• Gather or conduct activities outdoors without wearing a mask except in certain crowded settings and venues.
• Travel within the United States without the need to get tested or self-quarantine before or after travel.
Even if you’ve been vaccinated, you should continue to:
• Pay close attention to the situation at your international destination before traveling outside the United States.
• Wear a mask that fits snugly and covers your nose and mouth when you are in indoor public settings, are gathering indoors with unvaccinated people from more than one household, or are visiting indoors with an unvaccinated person who is at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.
• Avoid large indoor gatherings.
• Watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
• Follow guidance at your workplace and stay aware of local conditions.
People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken the immune system should talk to their healthcare provider to discuss their necessary COVID-19 precautions.
The COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be extremely effective at preventing COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness and death. About the new CDC guidelines, Carbon Health’s Chief Clinical Innovation Officer, Caesar Djavaherian, MD, MS, FACEP, says, “The scientific literature has supported these recommendations for quite a while, so the CDC’s updated recommendations are a welcome step toward a safe reopening.”
Carbon Health’s medical content is reviewed and approved by healthcare professionals before it is published. But note that our knowledge and understanding of COVID-19 are developing and changing very rapidly; if you have questions or concerns about COVID-19 precautions, treatments, and vaccinations, please talk to your healthcare provider.