CDC Says Vaccinated Americans Can (Mostly) Stop Wearing Masks
"We have all longed for this moment," Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the CDC, said during a news conference held at the White House. "If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic."
According to Dr. Walensky, vaccinated Americans—those who are two weeks past either their second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot—can stop wearing masks indoors or outdoors, and are no longer being advised to socially distance from others. (If you've only had a single dose or have not yet received the vaccine, Dr. Walensky suggests continuing to wear a mask.)
The New York Times reports that masks and social distancing will still be required in some situations, including in doctors' offices, hospitals, and nursing homes and other long-term care facilities; when on public transportation or in airports and bus stations; and inside correctional facilities or homeless shelters.
Regardless, it's a big step, compared to the recommendations that the CDC made just two weeks ago; at the end of April, the agency still encouraged vaccinated people to wear masks in indoor public settings or in crowded outdoor settings, but gave us the OK to shove them in our pockets while exercising outdoors, during small outdoor gatherings, or while eating outdoors at restaurants. However, many cities and states still have limits on indoor dining capacities, so any effect the new guidelines could have on loosening those regulations remains to be seen.
But if dining indoors at a restaurant or shopping at the supermarket without a mask feels weird to you—or if you're just not ready for that yet—Dr. Anthony Fauci has your back. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with an individual who has a certain level for risk aversion," he said. "They shouldn't be criticized."
According to the Associated Press, about 154 million Americans—46 percent of the population—have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and over 117 million are fully vaccinated. "We've gotten this far—please protect yourself until you get to the finish line," President Joe Biden said. "If you haven't been vaccinated, wear your mask for your own protection, and the protection of the people who also have not been vaccinated yet."