Fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks indoors and outdoors, CDC says

A teacher wearing a face mask, stands in front of a class of students who are also wearing face masks and sitting behind plexiglass shields.
Kyle Faircloth, right, Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies, teaches a class at Palm Beach Atlantic University, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that fully vaccinated adults can safely resume activities indoors or outdoors without masks or distancing, in gatherings large or small. The announcement marks a major milestone in the effort to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

The new guidance was announced Thursday by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

“You can do things you stopped doing because of the pandemic,” she said.

The new policy is based on recent real-world studies from Israel and the U.S. in people who’ve been vaccinated, she said.

In response to a question, Walensky said the federal mask requirement in public transportation remains in force for everyone, vaccinated or not – including on buses, trains, airplanes and in stations and airports.

“For travel, we are still asking people to continue wearing their masks,” Walensky said. She said the policy continues to be under review.

Unvaccinated people “remain at risk” of illness and death, Walensky said, and should remain masked and observe physical distancing.

The new indoor masking guidance follows a CDC announcement two weeks ago that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask when they’re outdoors unless they’re in a crowd, such as attending a live performance, sporting event or parade.

People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot.

NPR’s Tamara Keith contributed to this report.

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