In another major step toward normalcy, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday further relaxed mask mandates for fully vaccinated people, who may now safely stop wearing masks indoors in most cases, according to an initial report from AP News.
Vaccinated people can go maskless in most indoor areas
The new CDC guidance still requires everyone to wear masks in crowded indoor areas, including hospitals, buses, prisons, planes, and homeless shelters, but this is a significant step toward reopening workplaces, school, and many other entities across the country, enabling most who've received the vaccine to go maskless in public indoor spaces. "We have all longed for this moment — when we can get back to some sense of normalcy," said Director CDC Rochelle Walensky, according to the AP News report.
Additionally, the CDC no longer recommends that people who've received a full vaccination must wear masks outdoors in crowds. This announcement comes amid mounting pressure on the Biden administration to relax restrictions on people who are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus, partially as a way to spread awareness that getting a shot has serious social benefits. Director Walensky made the announcement during a White House briefing, declaring that the long-awaited easing of mask mandates is due to the voluntary vaccination of millions of people in the U.S. — in addition to new scientific reports on how successful the vaccines have become.
"Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities — large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing," said Walensky during the briefing. "If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic." The timing is apt, since the campaign to vaccinate everyone in the U.S. is just now beginning to prove its use-value, with cases at their lowest rate since September 2020, deaths at their lowest point since April 2020, and the COVID-19 test positivity rates at their lowest since the very beginning of the pandemic's landfall on the country.
The evidence shows that vaccines are 'strongly protective' against coronavirus and variants
As of writing, roughly 154 million Americans — consisting of more than 46% of them — have already received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — with more than 117 million already fully vaccinated. In the last few weeks, the rate of new vaccinations has slowed, but with a new authorization on Wednesday for the Pfizer vaccine to be given to children aged 12 to 15, officials expect a new surge in vaccine rates to show up in the coming days.
This also comes two weeks after the CDC's initial recommendation for fully vaccinated people to ease mask mandates while outdoors, but with the temporary proviso for fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks in large crowds and indoors. During a Tuesday virtual meeting with a bipartisan assembly of governors, President Joe Biden emphasized a need for his nascent administration to do a better job of modeling the benefits of receiving a vaccination. "I would like to say that we have fully vaccinated people; we should start acting like it," said Republican Governor of Utah Spencer Cox, to Biden. "And that's a big motivation [to] get the unvaccinated to want to get vaccinated."
"Good point," replied the President. "We're going to be moving on that in the next little bit." But it's not all great. This new relaxed guidance might enable more confusion, since there's no known way businesses or other entities can distinguish fully vaccinated people from everyone else. Regardless, Walensky argued that the evidence from the U.S. and Israel shows the vaccines are extremely effective, and even work on some very concerning mutated variants of the COVID-19 coronavirus — which are rapidly sweeping the world.
This was a breaking story and was regularly updated as new information became available.