Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, facemasks have been both a symbol and a gauge of “normalcy” rates in a world that seems to have no turning back.
Now, nearly a year and a half after the virus hit U.S. soil, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has softened its guidelines on the use of facemasks outdoors.
As reported by the Associated Press, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to cover their faces unless they are in a large crowd of strangers.
Similarly, those who are not vaccinated will also be able to start going outside without masks in some situations.
“Today, I hope, is a day when we can take another step back to the normalcy of before,” CDC Director Dr. 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 CDC’s decision comes as more than half of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than one-third have been fully vaccinated.
This scenario is radically opposite to what was expected from the U.S. before the election. Consistency in guidelines, as well as the coordination of one of the fastest and most effective vaccination campaigns in the world, have allowed the CDC to make this new decision.
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% of documented cases of virus transmission occurred outdoors.
That’s why CDC instructs that, whether fully vaccinated or not, people do not have to wear masks outdoors when walking, biking, or running alone or with household members. They can also go unmasked at small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated persons.
However, unvaccinated people — defined as those who have not yet received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or Johnson & Johnson’s single dose formulation — should wear a mask at small outdoor gatherings that include other unvaccinated people, the CDC says. They should also wear face coverings when dining at outdoor restaurants with friends from multiple households.
Similarly, instructions for crowded outdoor events, such as concerts or sporting events, call for masks.
With information from the Associated Press.