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CDC: If You're Vaccinated, You Don't Need To Mask Outdoors (Unless You're In A Crowd)


Fully vaccinated people can go unmasked in most outdoor settings. That's from the new guidelines out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it's an example of how the vaccines are helping accelerate a return to normal activity. President Biden painted a picture earlier today.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Beginning today, gathering with a group of friends in a park, going for a picnic, as long as you are vaccinated and outdoors, you can do it without a mask.

CORNISH: But as NPR's Allison Aubrey reports, don't toss those masks, not just yet. There are still many settings in which fully vaccinated people are being asked for now to keep those masks on.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: The new guidance comes as more than half of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. And as more people are protected, the CDC says it's OK for fully vaccinated people to be outside without a mask on when they walk or exercise, attend small gatherings or dine outdoors at a restaurant. CDC director Rochelle Walensky announced the new guidance at a White House briefing today.


ROCHELLE WALENSKY: Today is another day we can take a step back to the normalcy of before. And generally, for vaccinated people, outdoor activities without a mask are safe.

AUBREY: That's because outdoors, the fresh air is constantly circulating, and researchers say the virus doesn't have the chance to accumulate in the air. The CDC says it's now clear that COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at protecting people against illness, but not 100% effective. There are documented cases of people getting the virus after being fully vaccinated. So the agency continues to recommend that everyone take precautions, including staying masked in certain situations.


WALENSKY: We continue to recommend masking in crowded outdoor settings and venues such as packed stadiums and concerts where there is decreased ability to maintain physical distance and where many unvaccinated people may also be present.

AUBREY: The agency says everyone, including fully vaccinated people, should continue to mask in indoor public spaces such as when you go to a shopping mall, a hair salon or a full capacity service at a church, synagogue and other houses of worship. In addition, the agency says masks should be worn at indoor gatherings that include unvaccinated people.


WALENSKY: We will continue to recommend this until widespread vaccination is achieved.

AUBREY: This helps to protect you and the people around you. So masks will be with us for a while longer. But Walensky says today's announcement shows just how powerful these vaccines are in the efforts to end the pandemic.

Allison Aubrey, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Allison Aubrey is a correspondent for NPR News, where her stories can be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She's also a contributor to the PBS NewsHour and is one of the hosts of NPR's Life Kit.