Vaccinated adults do not need to wear masks while walking, exercising, dining, or attending small gatherings outside, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced.
“If you are fully vaccinated and want to attend a small outdoor gathering with people who are vaccinated and unvaccinated … the science shows, if you’re vaccinated, you can do so safely,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday.
The updated guidance maintains, though, that fully vaccinated people should socially distance and wear masks indoors in public places such as hair salons, malls, movie theaters, and other venues where people’s vaccination status is unknown.
“We still believe as people are in small gatherings, medium-sized gatherings when they are unvaccinated … you have people who are at risk of severe disease. So, we do believe in those settings masks should still occur,” Walensky said.
Walensky added that people who have been vaccinated should still wear masks in crowded outdoor settings such as packed sports stadiums and concert venues, where many unvaccinated people may be present.
President Joe Biden was slated to announce a change in masking policy during his address Tuesday afternoon in which he will discuss the full vaccination of 37% of all adults in the United States who are 18 and older. Nearly 231 million shots have been administered in the U.S. so far, enough to give at least one dose to about 54% of the adult population.
The daily rate of vaccinations, averaging about 2.7 million shots, has slowed in recent weeks, which federal health officials attribute to lingering vaccine hesitancy. Officials also worry that people are increasingly avoiding getting their second dose of Pfizer and Moderna shots. More than 5 million people who received the first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine missed their second dose, the New York Times reported earlier this week.
Health officials hope that the step toward the return to normalcy will convince vaccine holdouts to get the shots and fulfill Biden’s vision for a summer without coronavirus precautions.
“Today is another day we can take a step back to the normalcy of before,” Walensky said. “I am optimistic that people will use this information to take personal responsibility to protect themselves and to protect others, and I hope will encourage people to get fully vaccinated.”