CDC: No mask needed outdoors if vaccinated, except among crowds

    Both masked and unmasked people were out walking and jogging in Atlanta's Piedmont Park Tuesday afternoon on the heels of new federal guidance that no face coverings are needed in uncrowded outdoor areas. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

    WASHINGTON — Fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear a mask outdoors except in crowded settings, federal health officials said Tuesday as they updated recommendations for how vaccinated individuals can safely resume normal activities.

    Those who are at least two weeks past receiving their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can safely be unmasked at small outdoor gatherings and while dining outdoors with friends from multiple households, according to the new guidance.

    The color-coded chart on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website also says masks aren’t needed for those who are unvaccinated when walking or running outdoors alone or with members of their household.

    The updated recommendations come after studies have shown that fewer than 10% of transmissions of the virus are occurring outdoors, where ventilation poses little problem.

    Federal health officials still urged those who are vaccinated to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings where it is harder to maintain a distance from others, such as concerts or stadiums, and also when indoors, where the virus can easily spread.

    “When you are fully vaccinated, you can return to many activities safely, and most of them outdoors and unmasked, and begin to get back to normal,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, told reporters Tuesday. “And the more people who are vaccinated, the more steps we can take toward spending time with people we love doing the things we love to enjoy.”

    The recommendations are the latest update from federal health officials on how vaccinated individuals can safely resume normal activities.

    They offered guidance in March on how vaccinated people can gather with those who are and are not vaccinated. Earlier this month, CDC officials said fully vaccinated individuals can travel at low risk to themselves, though in a murky messaging effort, they also urged Americans — vaccinated or not — to still refrain from any non-essential travel.

    More changes in mask recommendations will require infections across the country to continue to fall, and vaccinations to continue to grow, Walensky said.

    According to CDC tracking data, 54% of American adults have received at least one dose of one of the three authorized COVID-19 vaccines, and 37% have been fully vaccinated. In Georgia, about 34% of the population has received at least one dose.

    Infections from COVID-19 have been decreasing after a smaller spike that crested in mid-April, Walensky said Tuesday, noting that hospitalizations and deaths related to the virus also have been declining.

    “As I look at the curve now, it’s stabilizing, it’s coming down,” she said.

    Laura Olson
    Laura covers the nation's capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit outlets that includes Georgia Recorder. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections, and campaign finance.