The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved non-usage of face masks for citizens who had been fully vaccinated outdoors and that they can also avoid wearing them indoors in most places, adding that the approval was part of its update guidance that would ensure gradual return of life to normal.
The CDC also said that fully vaccinated people would not need to physically distance in most places, noting that move was aimed at proding more Americans to get vaccinated across the country.
CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky, while defending the easing of guidance just two weeks after its most recent update, cited a sharp reduction in cases, expansion of vaccines to younger people and vaccine efficacy against coronavirus variants.
“We followed the science here. A coalescence of more science that has emerged just in the last week,” Walensky said.
“Big news from the CDC: If you’re fully vaccinated, you do not need to wear a mask – indoors or outdoors, in most settings,” the White House posted on its social media with a picture that said: “Fully Vaccinated People CAN STOP Wearing Masks.”
Meanwhile, the CDC had faced criticism, even from public health officials, that it has been too cautious in its guidance. Critics have said people need to see more benefit of getting vaccinated in terms of returning to normal activities.
“In the past couple of weeks, we have seen additional data to show these vaccines work in the real world, they stand up to the variants, and vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the virus,” the agency said in a news release.
It added, “We needed to take the time to review the full body of evidence to get this right, and that’s how we came to this decision.”
The revised guidance was said to be a major step toward returning to pre-pandemic life, but the agency still recommends vaccinated people wear masks on planes and trains, and at airports, transit hubs, mass transit and in places like hospitals and doctor’s offices.
The U.S. government last month extended mask requirements across transportation networks through Sept. 13. Walensky said the CDC plans to soon issued updated guidance for transit.
Masks became a political issues in the United States with then-President Donald Trump resisting mandating masks while President Joe Biden embraced masks and mandated them for transit hubs. Some U.S. states issued aggressive mask mandates while others declined or dropped them months ago.
The CDC said that fully vaccinated people should still wear masks where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, and abide by such rules and regulations, including from local businesses and workplace guidance.
In late April, the CDC said that fully vaccinated people can safely engage in outdoor activities like walking and hiking without wearing masks, but recommended continuing to use face-coverings in public spaces where they are required.
Walensky said on Thursday immune-compromised individuals should consult doctors before shedding masks and emphasized people who have not been vaccinated should continue to wear them. She added that vaccinated people who have COVID-19 symptoms should put masks back on.