The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this Thursday that people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors, except under certain circumstances.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”
Dr. Rochelle Walensky called this an “exciting and powerful moment. The science supports the updated CDC guidance 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 two from the United States — that show vaccines work.
The Israeli study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and showed “the vaccine was 97% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 and 86% effective against asymptomatic infection in over 5,000 healthcare workers tested.”
In the more than 117 fully vaccinated Americans there have been a small number of reports of breakthrough infections, however, Walensky noted that “the resulting infections are more likely to have a lower viral load, may be shorter in duration, and likely less risk of transmission to others.”
People who are immunocompromised should still proceed with caution, and all mask mandates are still in effect for all forms of public transportation, including air travel.
“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. People who develop Covid-19 symptoms, even those who are vaccinated, should put their mask back on and get tested, Walensky said.
She explained how: “the science is clear, too, for unvaccinated people. You remain at risk of mild or severe illness, of death, or spreading the disease to others. You should still mask and you should get vaccinated right away. But once someone is fully vaccinated — two weeks after the final dose — you can shed your mask,” she said.
Some people may choose to continue wearing masks even if they are fully vaccinated, and that’s OK, federal Covid-19 response leaders said Thursday.
“People have to make their own personal choice,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during the White House Covid-19 briefing.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with an individual who has a certain level of risk aversion, as we know the risk is extremely low of getting infected whether you’re indoors or outdoors. But there are those people who don’t want to take that bit of a risk and there’s nothing wrong with that and they shouldn’t be criticized.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.