FILE - In this March 11, 2021, file photo President Joe Biden holds up his mask as he speaks about the COVID-19 pandemic during a prime-time address from the East Room of the White House in Washington. Biden spent his first 100 days in office encouraging Americans to mask up and stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. His task for the next 100 days will be to lay out the path back to normal. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

CDC says many Americans can now go outside without a mask

Infectious disease expert says country on the exit ramp to the return of freedom

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its guidelines Tuesday on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers.

And those who are unvaccinated can go outside without masks in some cases, too.

The new guidance represents another carefully calibrated step on the road back to normal from the coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 570,000 people in U.S.

For most of the past year, the CDC had been advising Americans to wear masks outdoors if they are within 6 feet of each other.

The change comes as more than half of U.S. adults have gotten at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, and more than a third have been fully vaccinated.

RELATED: Feds decline to give new guidance to fully, partially vaccinated Canadians

RELATED: Ontario asks federal government for enhanced measures for interprovincial travellers

“It’s the return of freedom,” said Dr. Mike Saag, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who welcomed the change. “It’s the return of us being able to do normal activities again. We’re not there yet, but we’re on the exit ramp. And that’s a beautiful thing.”

More people need to be vaccinated, and concerns persist about variants and other possible shifts in the epidemic. But Saag said the new guidance is a sensible reward following the development and distribution of effective vaccines and about 140 million Americans stepping forward to get their shots.

The CDC, which has been cautious in its guidance during the crisis, essentially endorsed what many Americans have already been doing over the past several weeks.

The CDC says that fully vaccinated or not, people do not have to wear masks outdoors when they walk, bike or run alone or with members of their household. They can also go maskless in small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated people.

But from there, the CDC has differing guidance for people who are fully vaccinated and those who are not.

Unvaccinated people — defined by the CDC as those who have yet to receive both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson formula — should wear masks at outdoor gatherings that include other unvaccinated people. They also should keep using masks at outdoor restaurants.

Fully vaccinated people do not need to cover up in those situations, the CDC says.

However, everyone should keep wearing masks at crowded outdoor events such as concerts or sporting events, the CDC says.

And the agency continues to recommend masks at indoor public places, such as hair salons, restaurants, shopping centres, museums and movie theatres.

Dr. Babak Javid, a physician-scientist at the University of California, San Francisco, said the new CDC guidance is sensible.

“In the vast majority of outdoor scenarios, transmission risk is low,” Javid said.

Javid has favoured outdoor mask-wearing requirements because he believes they increase indoor mask-wearing, but he said Americans can understand the relative risks and make good decisions.

“The key thing is to make sure people wear masks indoors” while in public spaces, he said.

He added: “I’m looking forward to mask-free existence.”

“The timing is right because we now have a fair amount of data about the scenarios where transmission occurs,” said Mercedes Carnethon, a professor and vice chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

What’s more, she said, “the additional freedoms may serve as a motivator” for people to get vaccinated.

—Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press. AP medical writer Carla K. Johnson in Washington state contributed to this report.

Just Posted

Maple Ridge city hall (The News files)
Maple Ridge turns to public for consultation on transportation plan

Mayor encourages all residents to participate in ‘important engagement process’

Ethan Page, left, and Nicky Walton received Excellence in Arts Scholarship Awards in music. (Special to The News)
Port Haney Artist-in-Residence Aaron Moran. (Special to the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows News)
Personal reflections of Maple Ridge are needed for new public art project

Residents of all ages, backgrounds and abilities welcome to share stories and poems

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Maple Ridge elementary school exposed to COVID-19

Exposure event at Glenwood elementary the seventh in past two weeks

Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or in writing.
LETTER: Upset by being called an ‘idiot’

Maple Ridge writer disagrees with majority on COVID safety protocols and their impacts

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen (18) and Calgary Flames’ Josh Leivo, front right, vie for the puck as goalie Jacob Markstrom, back left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, February 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen sued over alleged sexual assault

Statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages

Linda Annis, executive director of Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers, at press conference Monday. (Submitted photo)
Crime Stoppers receiving $200K from province for ‘Guns and Gangs’ tip line campaign

Executive director Linda Annis broke the news Monday morning in Surrey

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Most Read