The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, outlining the situations where vaccinated people can stop wearing masks.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and two weeks after the Johnson & Johnson shot.
The guidelines, announced today by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, give fully vaccinated people more leeway to return to normal activities — recognizing how effective the vaccines are at preventing disease. But they’re complicated, and they ask people to keep track of different mask guidelines for a wide range of situations.
“I am optimistic that people will use this information to take personal responsibility to protect themselves and to protect others,” Walensky said during a press briefing today.
The CDC says that people who are fully vaccinated can stop wearing masks when they’re indoors with other vaccinated people, or with unvaccinated people they don’t live with who are low risk for a severe case of COVID-19. They don’t need masks when exercising alone outside, or when gathering outside with both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. But they should keep wearing masks at crowded, outdoor events like a sports game.
People who are fully vaccinated should still wear masks during most indoor activities, like shopping or getting a haircut. Early guidance from the CDC cleared people who are fully vaccinated to spend time indoors, unmasked, with other vaccinated people.
“This is complicated, but complexity is the price for allowing people to go without masks early,” said epidemiologist George Rutherford of the University of California, San Francisco, told Buzzfeed News. “If you want simple rules, then we just wear masks until every last one of us is vaccinated.”
Nearly 40 percent of adults in the United States are fully vaccinated. More and more data shows that the vaccines are overwhelmingly effective at protecting people from COVID-19, and that people who are vaccinated are very unlikely to catch the virus and pass it to someone else.