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People who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 no longer need to wear masks while outside in uncrowded areas or in small groups, federal health officials said Tuesday as part of updated guidance.

The federal health officials urged people — even those who are vaccinated — to continue wearing masks in indoor settings like the grocery store or houses of worship as a way to protect others who are not yet vaccinated and to reduce transmission. They also said people should continue to use face coverings in crowded areas even if outdoors, at events like sports games or concerts where distancing is more difficult. While the available Covid-19 vaccines are incredibly powerful at preventing illness and are cutting transmission, some people do contract the virus after being immunized. (Researchers are still trying to understand just how efficiently people who have these so-called breakthrough infections can transmit the virus to others; it’s possible the vaccines cut down on how contagious they are.)

At a briefing Tuesday, Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that experts over the past year had been focused on what Americans shouldn’t do. “Today I’m going to tell you some of the things you can do, if you are fully vaccinated,” she said in announcing the updated mask recommendations.

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The message from federal health officials is likely to lead to policy changes around the country. Already, some states have lifted mask mandates entirely as their cases counts have dropped after the devastating winter surge.

Some public health experts had been urging government officials to make such a recommendation on outdoor mask-wearing not only because outdoor transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is such a rare event, but also to signal to the public that with vaccines comes greater freedoms. More places in the country are reaching the point where they have more vaccine supply available than people eager to get shots, a circumstance that reflects not only resistance, for some, but also access issues, like how easy it is for people to make appointments and get to an administration site. 

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People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their final dose of the vaccine if they receive the two-shot immunizations from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, or two weeks after getting the single shot from Johnson & Johnson.

Federal officials first urged Americans to start wearing masks in public more than a year ago, in early April. 

  • There is a problem with both the mainstream media and particularly the medical pharmaceutical press, and OUR PRESIDENT, and his administration, continually talking about “vaccinated” people when there are 3 different vaccines.
    This was important from the start, because the different vaccines had somewhate different efficacies, but not a big difference for “clinical” purposes – giving public health advice in this instance.
    But, a paper in BMJ, British Medical Journal, showing J&J is 57% efficacious against B1351 makes efficacy much more of an issue. IF, and i think it is not proven, despite repeated optimistic reports, IF the mRNA vaccines we use in the US are a great deal more efficacious against B1351 (and P1 and the Indian variant) than J&J, then we may need to give different advice to people who received J&J than people who got mRNA types.
    And plan to follow up with the J&J vaccinees, preferentially, with the variant shots they are working on.
    I have no idea if reports are correct, J&J might be the best vaccine for every type, for all I know, I am just pointing out we are not seeing evidence the Feds are dealing with this epidemic at the level of complexity required.

    • I should have been a bit more precise – IF a person got a vaccine which research shows is not very effective against a variant, and the variant is identified as fairly commonplace in the area the person lives, then IMO he should maintain high levels of precaution until getting a vaccine proven effective against the variant, or until the variant becomes rare.
      In my area, we had about ten times the rate of infection after Christmas that we do now – but the current level has been about the same for six weeks – despite hugely increased vaccination rates. So, there was a huge surge, a huge plunge, and then a steady low rate – which has not responded to mass vaccination at all. I believe it is most reasonable to suspect either more contagious, or immunity evading variants must be driving it.

  • vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks outside and in small gatherings?
    Surely, that is not going to be abused by anti-vaxxers and alike pretending of being vaccinated.

  • I don’t care what the CDC says. Recent history says that as soon as people start walking around without masks, the numbers go up. I’ll wait until we reach a higher vaccination point (like maybe 90 percent) before throwing caution to the winds. We still don’t know enough about the variants to be sure it’s safe.

    • You may have to wait a long time, because reports are a lot more than 10% of adults are going to turn the vaccine down.
      Also, probably more than 10% of population is under 16.
      This is a big problem, as the variants coming in, even if our vaccines prevent them, are far more contagious, so they can spread with a higher vaccination rate than the original estimates predicted to stop the original types we had.

    • The Brazil and India Variants are already reached our borders in California. How can you put your guard down now. This is the time when USA needs to be exercising caution and closing the borders. No india or Brazil travelers. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

  • If those of us who are vaccinated stop wearing masks; and those who refuse to, and may have Covid, just get another chance at infecting us.
    While we are vaccinated, there are new strands coming along.
    Let’s just get used to wearing the masks.
    Just look at how fewer cases of the flu were reported this year.

  • They were given a lot of grief at the time, but the former officials who wanted to get college kids infected, separately from people at much higher risk, might have had the right idea.
    The lockdowns and mask wearing might have worked very well, too, if universally applied, on a rational basis.
    What did not work was everyone fighting over what to do – this seemed to give us the worst of both strategies – we got big lockdowns and harm to the economy, AND one of the worst epidemics of any country.
    Refusal to do human challenge testing, beginning in March and April 2020, seems to have delayed vaccine availability for several very important months.
    This new guidance comes the day after a popular rightwing TV show told it’s viewers to call the cops on anyone putting a mask on their kids.
    Seems like kind of an anarchy now.

  • ROFL. Are you kidding me? How generous. Someone needs to break it to the CDC that Americans have been doing that for some time vaccinated or now. I am a volunteer with emergency management and I understand and accept much of what has been done in the past year. But the push to keep people masked has become borderline ridiculous. I do continue to wear a mask indoors in public spaces and outdoors only when conditions deem it prudent. I am also following the variants and in particular what is happening in Ontario. If the CDC thinks people are going to wear masks indefinitely outside or even inside as time goes by…. they had better start rethinking their playbook. There are ALWAYS going to be unvaccinated people. There will be people in whom the vaccine is not as effective. There will be mutations that will always challenge the vaccines and our own body’s defenses. That does NOT mean that people are going to follow a mask forever edict. Just sayin’ folks. I get it but there is a point where pushing something becomes counterproductive.

    • OK, so while the smart people are being careful the idiots will get sick and hopefully rid us of the problem of “them” in doing so. If they happen to get rid of their progeny as well, I guess that is evolution at work. (Those of you in the idiot group reading this can consider yourself warned.)

    • Completely agree with you. It also must be said that there needs to be some ‘rewards’ for being vaccinated, which will encourage more people to do it.

      It’s all very well that plan X works on paper, but when it hits the real world you’ll have all of the problems you describe. People will stop complying. People will become totally fatigued, even when they were previously obedient and well meaning. People won’t behave rationally. It’s human nature and I hope the CDC and others have factored it in.

    • Hi Paul,
      I completely agree with you! Well said. The push to keep people masked has become ridiculous and those in charge really seem to lack common sense.

    • Paul is dead right — there are ALWAYS going to be unvaccinated people. To add to that, there are ALWAYS going to be variants, they is ALWAYS going to be the flu, there are ALWAYS going to be elderly people with co-morbidities who are going to succumb to some form of end of life respiratory problem.

      And yes, there are ALWAYS going to be unlucky people who are not elderly and who are not obvious candidates for getting very sick, who WILL get very sick.

      When does this end? When does normal return? Never?

      Public health officials are preternaturally inclined to take the MOST risk averse path. And the reason they do this is both a particular sensibility they have AND the fact that the science is in fact inconclusive. Epidemiology is NOT science. It is “data analysis” and “modeling.” There is no falsifiable hypothesis testing. There are simply guesses and language over and over again in the conditional mood.

      We have had flu epidemics in the recent past, in the 50s and 60s. You know how we reacted then? Nobody batted a eyelash. No one expected medicine to save you then. Today? Everyone hides, everyone avoids everyone else on the street as though they had the plague.

      This is not the way humanity is supposed to live. This is not civilization. This is cowering fear. It has to end, and it should end now.

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