For most of the past year, the CDC had been advising Americans to wear masks outdoors if they are within 6 feet of one another.
“Today, I hope, is a day when we can take another step back to the normalcy of before,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “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.”
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, which has been cautious in its guidance during the crisis, essentially endorsed what many Americans have 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. None of the coronavirus vaccines in use in the United States is authorized for children younger than 16.
And everyone, fully vaccinated or not, should keep wearing masks at crowded outdoor events such as concerts or sporting events, the CDC says.
The agency continues to recommend masks at indoor public places, such as hair salons, restaurants, shopping centers, gyms, museums and movie theaters, saying that is still the safer course even for vaccinated people.
“Right now it’s very hard to tease apart who is vaccinated,” Walensky explained.
“The biggest thing that it helps us is our mental health,” said Tim Stephens, a 52-year-old software salesman in Birmingham, Alabama, who suffered a bout of covid-19 and has since gotten vaccinated.
“To be able to feel like we’re turning the corner and can confidently go out and experience life and do a lot of the things that we did before covid ... . It’s one more step in the process of moving beyond this.”
— Associated Press