"Generally, for vaccinated people, outdoor activities without a mask are safe," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

By Mike Pomranz
April 28, 2021
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Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a series of "interim" updates to its guidance on wearing masks—all specifically focused on recommendations for fully vaccinated people. And though it's still generally recommended that vaccinated individuals follow the same guidelines as those who are unvaccinated—especially indoors where the recommendations are essentially the same—fully vaccinated people shouldn't feel obligated to wear a mask while mixing with others in two key situations: dining outdoors and during small outdoor gatherings.

The CDC defines people as "fully vaccinated" for COVID-19 if it's been two or more weeks since they've received the second dose of a two-dose vaccine such as Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna or their only dose of a single-dose vaccine such as Johnson and Johnson (J&J)/Janssen.

A glass of water served on table in an outdoor restaurant against beautiful sunlight
Credit: d3sign/Getty Images

The CDC now specifies that, once fully vaccinated, people should no longer feel the need to wear a mask if they "attend a small, outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people" or "dine at an outdoor restaurant with friends from multiple households." However, even vaccinated individuals are being told they should still mask up if they "attend a crowded, outdoor event, like a live performance, parade, or sports event."

As far as indoor activities, the CDC also clarified that fully vaccinated people are safe to visit with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks or distancing. And vaccinated people can also feel comfortable maskless if they "visit with unvaccinated people (including children) from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease."

"Generally, for vaccinated people, outdoor activities without a mask are safe. However, we continue to recommend masking in crowded outdoor settings and venues, such as packed stadiums and concerts where there is decreased ability to maintain physical distance and where many unvaccinated people may also be present," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during a briefing according to CNN. "We will continue to recommend this until widespread vaccination is achieved."

She added that this determination was made based on new scientific evidence. "There's increasing data that suggests that most of transmission is happening indoors rather than outdoors—less than 10 percent of documented transmission in many studies have occurred outdoors," Walensky continued. "We also know that there's an almost 20-fold increased risk of transmission in the indoor setting than in the outdoor setting. That, coupled with the fact that we now have 37 percent of people over the age of 18 fully vaccinated and the fact that our case rates are now starting to come down, motivated our change in guidance."

The CDC guidance did stress that "immunocompromised people need to consult their healthcare provider about these recommendations, even if fully vaccinated" and added the reminder that even fully vaccinated people need to get tested if they experience COVID-19 symptoms, and they should still follow the guidance issued by their individual employers.