CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is easing indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to safely stop wearing masks inside in most places.

Posted: May 13, 2021 12:24 PM
Updated: May 13, 2021 2:59 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a major step toward returning to pre-pandemic life, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people on Thursday, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters but it will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.

“We have all longed for this moment — when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC.

The CDC and the Biden administration have faced pressure to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated people — those who are two weeks past their last required COVID-19 vaccine dose — in part to highlight the benefits of getting the shot.

The country's aggressive vaccination campaign has paid off: U.S. virus cases are at their lowest rate since September, deaths are at their lowest point since last April and the test positivity rate is at the lowest point since the pandemic began.

Walensky announced the new guidance on Thursday afternoon at a White House briefing, saying the long-awaited change is thanks to millions of people getting vaccinated and is based on the latest science about how well those shots are working.

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities -– large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing,” Walensky said. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

The new guidance is likely to open the door to confusion, since there is no surefire way for businesses or others to distinguish between those who are fully vaccinated and those who are not. Walensky said those who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks indoors.

President Joe Biden was set to highlight the new guidance Thursday afternoon in a speech from the White House.

To date about 154 million Americans, more than 46% of the population, have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and more than 117 million are fully vaccinated. The rate of new vaccinations has slowed in recent weeks, but with the authorization Wednesday of the Pfizer shot for children ages 12 to 15, a new burst of doses is expected in the coming days.

Just two weeks ago, the CDC recommended that fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks indoors in all settings and outdoors in large crowds.

During a virtual meeting Tuesday on vaccinations with a bipartisan group of governors, Biden appeared to acknowledge that his administration had to do more to model the benefits of vaccination.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, told Biden: “I would like to say that we have fully vaccinated people; we should start acting like it. And that’s a big motivation get the unvaccinated to want to to get vaccinated.”

“Good point,” Biden responded. He added, “We’re going to be moving on that in the next little bit.”

Walensky said evidence from the U.S. and Israel shows the vaccines are as strongly protective in real world use as they were in earlier studies, and that so far they continue to work even though some worrying mutated versions of the virus are spreading.

The more people continue to get vaccinated, the faster infections will drop — and the harder it will be for the virus to mutate enough to escape vaccines, she stressed, urging everyone 12 and older who’s not yet vaccinated to sign up.

And while some people still get COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, Walensky said, that’s rare. She cited evidence that those infections tend to be milder, shorter and harder to spread to others. If people who are vaccinated do develop COVID-19 symptoms, they should immediately put their mask back on and get tested, she said.

There are some caveats. Walensky encouraged people who have weak immune systems, such as from organ transplants or cancer treatment, to talk with their doctors before shedding their masks. That’s because of continued uncertainty about whether the vaccines can rev up a weakened immune system as well as they do normal, healthy ones.

The new guidance had an immediate effect at the White House, which has taken a cautious approach to easing virus restrictions. Staffers were informed that masks are no longer required for people who are fully vaccinated. And Biden, who was meeting with vaccinated Republican lawmakers in the Oval Office when the guidance was announced, led the group in removing their masks Thursday afternoon.

First lady Jill Biden, who was traveling in West Virginia, told reporters that “we feel naked,” after the guidance, as she and her party removed their face coverings. Then she paused. “I didn’t mean it that way!”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 603876

Reported Deaths: 7610
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1247791772
Ramsey52449895
Dakota46780470
Anoka42709458
Washington27396290
Stearns22549224
St. Louis18123312
Scott17540134
Wright16404148
Olmsted13387102
Sherburne1200094
Carver1065948
Clay825492
Rice8186110
Blue Earth762343
Crow Wing681494
Kandiyohi667285
Chisago619252
Otter Tail585684
Benton582898
Goodhue483373
Douglas475381
Mower470733
Winona461151
Itasca458963
Isanti439664
McLeod429761
Morrison424462
Nobles407950
Beltrami407160
Steele397416
Polk389072
Becker386555
Lyon363853
Carlton352656
Freeborn346932
Pine335023
Nicollet330945
Mille Lacs311454
Brown307840
Le Sueur297125
Cass285632
Todd285632
Meeker263042
Waseca237823
Martin234932
Roseau210821
Wabasha20783
Hubbard196041
Dodge18773
Renville182446
Redwood176338
Houston174016
Cottonwood167124
Wadena162723
Fillmore157410
Faribault154319
Chippewa153938
Pennington153820
Kanabec146828
Sibley146810
Aitkin138637
Watonwan13589
Rock128719
Jackson122612
Pipestone116626
Yellow Medicine114920
Pope11296
Murray107010
Swift106918
Koochiching94917
Stevens92411
Clearwater89116
Marshall88717
Wilkin83112
Lake83020
Lac qui Parle75622
Big Stone6044
Grant5938
Lincoln5843
Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
Kittson49022
Unassigned48093
Red Lake4017
Traverse3755
Lake of the Woods3453
Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 370654

Reported Deaths: 6041
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58194638
Linn21186339
Scott20290246
Black Hawk16075312
Woodbury15231230
Johnson1461085
Dubuque13501211
Dallas1128599
Pottawattamie11218173
Story1070848
Warren583691
Clinton561493
Cerro Gordo553293
Sioux516974
Webster515194
Muscatine4876106
Marshall486476
Des Moines466970
Wapello4333122
Buena Vista426140
Jasper420972
Plymouth402881
Lee381956
Marion365976
Jones300857
Henry294137
Bremer287760
Carroll286852
Boone268334
Crawford267740
Benton259255
Washington256651
Dickinson249444
Mahaska232351
Jackson225242
Clay216527
Kossuth216166
Tama211771
Delaware210943
Winneshiek197935
Page194522
Buchanan193233
Cedar192123
Hardin187344
Fayette186443
Wright185940
Hamilton181851
Harrison179973
Clayton171057
Butler166035
Madison164419
Mills163324
Floyd163042
Cherokee159438
Lyon158841
Poweshiek156936
Allamakee152652
Hancock150134
Iowa149824
Winnebago144331
Cass139155
Calhoun138913
Grundy137133
Emmet135841
Jefferson133535
Shelby131437
Sac130820
Union129935
Louisa129749
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126643
Chickasaw124517
Franklin123323
Guthrie123032
Humboldt119526
Palo Alto113623
Howard104922
Montgomery103638
Clarke100924
Keokuk96432
Monroe96230
Unassigned9540
Ida91535
Adair87332
Pocahontas85822
Davis85225
Monona82931
Osceola79016
Greene78011
Lucas77923
Worth7598
Taylor66712
Fremont6269
Decatur6159
Ringgold56324
Van Buren56318
Wayne54423
Audubon52910
Adams3444
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