You Can Skip a Mask Outside If You're Vaccinated (Unless You're in a Crowd)
New CDC guidelines loosen several restrictions
People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks outdoors unless they are in a crowded area like a concert or packed stadium, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday.
The approved outdoor activities for people who are least two weeks past their last shot include exercising, eating at a restaurant with friends, and attending a small gathering with vaccinated or unvaccinated people, according to the agency’s new guidelines.
“If you are vaccinated, you can do more things, more safely, both outdoors as well as indoors,” President Joe Biden said while discussing the new guidance at the White House on Tuesday. “So for those who haven’t gotten their vaccination yet, especially if you are younger or think you don’t need it, this is another reason to go get vaccinated now.”
Unvaccinated people can also drop the mask when exercising outdoors, but only when they’re alone or with members of their household, the CDC says. They can also go maskless if they are getting together with a small group of family or friends who have all been fully vaccinated.
What You Can and Can’t Do Now
The new guidelines are a sign of increasing freedoms that come with vaccination. “The more people who are vaccinated, the more steps we can take towards spending time with people we love doing the things we love to enjoy,” Walensky said.
The CDC has published an infographic that assigns a risk level to various activities for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and indicates when each group should wear a mask and take other precautions (PDF).
Masks are required outdoors only at crowded events, where there may be many unvaccinated people, according to Walensky. If you’re not yet vaccinated, such a crowded gathering would be considered one of the least safe situations to be in, even if you are wearing a mask, according to the guidance.
In March, the CDC said that it was safe for fully vaccinated people to gather indoors without a mask with a small group of other fully vaccinated people, or with unvaccinated people from a single household, provided the unvaccinated individuals are at low risk for complications from COVID-19.
Otherwise, the CDC still recommends that everyone wear a mask indoors. There, too, vaccinated people have more options. Data has shown that vaccinated people who wear a mask can feel safe engaging in a number of indoor activities—such as going to the movies, attending a worship service, or participating in a high-intensity exercise class—that would be riskier for unvaccinated people.
As more people get vaccinated and coronavirus cases go down, the CDC will be able to further update guidance on where masks are and aren’t needed, according to Walensky.