The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday revised their public health guidelines, stating that fully vaccinated people can exercise outdoors and attend small gatherings without face masks.
People two weeks away from their last vaccine can exercise on their own or with other household members without a face covering, the CDC said. You can also meet outdoors with a small group of other fully vaccinated people or a mix of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people, the agency added. The instruction did not say what counts as a small gathering.
It is also acceptable to eat without a mask at an outdoor restaurant with friends from multiple households, according to the CDC.
The agency continues to recommend that fully vaccinated individuals wear a mask in outdoor locations where the risk of Covid-19 is less clear. This includes sporting events, concerts, parades and other crowded places.
“In public spaces, the vaccination status of other people or whether they are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 is likely to be unknown,” the CDC wrote in its guidelines. “Therefore, fully vaccinated individuals should continue to follow instructions to protect themselves and others, including wearing a well-fitting mask when they are indoors, outdoors, or in places where masks are required.”
“CDC cannot give the specific risk for each activity in each community, so it is important to consider your personal situation and the risk to you, your family and your community before heading out without a mask,” added the Agency added.
Some former health officials and infectious disease experts have said that outdoor mask mandates are no longer required as the US vaccinates more Americans.
As of Monday, more than 140 million Americans, or 42.5% of the total population, had received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, according to the CDC. Around 95.8 million Americans, or 28.9% of the population, are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
During a press conference on Tuesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, she hopes the new guidelines will encourage more Americans to get vaccinated.
“Today is another day where we can take a step back to normal,” she said. “When you are fully vaccinated things are much safer for you than those who are not fully vaccinated.”
Walensky refused to define a “small gathering”. She said it was difficult to give an exact number as it would depend on the size of the plenum, the space between people and the amount of ventilation.
The CDC’s announcement comes just before Memorial Day and July 4th parade season. President Joe Biden said he hoped that enough Americans would be vaccinated by Independence Day to safely hold small outdoor gatherings.
On Tuesday, Biden pointed to the CDC guidance and said vaccinated people could now go to the park or have a picnic with exposed friends. He cited the relaxed restrictions as the reason for vaccination, but stressed that Americans should still wear masks in crowded outdoor areas.
“I want to be clear: when you are in a crowd like a stadium or a concert, you still have to wear a mask even when you are outside,” he said in a speech on North Lawn at the White House.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former appointee for the Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC Monday that public health officials should generally be more relaxed about outdoor activities as vaccination rates lower new infections in the United States.
Officials should take steps “to allow more outdoor gatherings, more large groups to allow, sporting events, things like that,” he told Squawk Box. “The weather is warming up. We have the ability to take more activity outside. We know that outdoor activity is less of a risk than indoor activity.”
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, said Monday he supported the expected guidance. He said more research shows fewer Covid infections occur outdoors.
He added that indoor masks should continue to be mandatory until most of the US population is vaccinated and it is difficult for the virus to spread from one person to another.
The CDC also said that unvaccinated people can exercise alone or with a household member without a mask. It is also recommended that vaccinated people wear masks in places such as hair salons, shopping malls, museums, cinemas, and places of worship.
“It’s been over a year. We have a very good understanding of who gets infected and how they get infected,” he told CNBC in a telephone interview. “I think it’s fair to say you don’t have to wear a mask outside unless you can’t maintain 2 meters or 6 feet of social distance.”
Over the weekend, the White House Chief Medical Officer, Dr. However, Anthony Fauci, suggesting the new mask tour was imminent, also warned Americans should adhere to public health measures until the CDC does an assessment.
“What I think you’re going to hear, what the country is about to hear is updated guidelines from the CDC,” Fauci told ABC’s Sunday program “This Week with George Stephanopoulos”. “The CDC is a science-based organization. You don’t want to make guidelines unless you look at the data and the data back it up.”