WASHINGTON – People fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors under new CDC guidance.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced the new policy recommendation on Thursday.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” Dr. Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 briefing. “We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”
Walensky says the science supports the new recommendation that, “anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing.”
She cited three studies, one from Israel and one from the United States, that show vaccines work.
The Israeli study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed the vaccine was 97% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 and 86% effective against asymptomatic infection in over 5,000 health care workers.
There have been reports of “breakthrough” infections among vaccinated people in the United States — a small number among more than 117 million people in the United States who are now fully vaccinated. Walensky noted that “the resulting infection is more likely to have a lower viral load, may be shorter in duration, and likely less risk of transmission to others.”
Walensky’s announcement has a few caveats. She warned that people who are immune compromised should speak with their doctors before giving up their masks.
She also said that “the past year has shown us that this virus can be unpredictable, so if things get worse, there is always a chance we may need to make a change to these recommendations.”