Fully Vaccinated People Can Ditch Masks Outdoors, Except in Crowds, CDC Says

Home Technology Fully Vaccinated People Can Ditch Masks Outdoors, Except in Crowds, CDC Says
Fully Vaccinated People Can Ditch Masks Outdoors, Except in Crowds, CDC Says
People wearing protective masks walk their bicycles past a social distancing sign reading “KEEP THIS FAR APART” at Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park during the coronavirus pandemic on May 17, 2020 in New York City.
People wearing protective masks walk their bicycles past a social distancing sign reading “KEEP THIS FAR APART” at Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park during the coronavirus pandemic on May 17, 2020 in New York City.
Photo: Dia Dipasupil (Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is relaxing its guidelines around wearing masks during the pandemic. On Tuesday, it announced that people fully vaccinated against covid-19 should feel safe and free to not wear masks outdoors, unless they’re in crowded settings. The guidelines also note that unvaccinated people don’t need to wear masks while walking or exercising by themselves or with household members. The revisions come in the midst of recent debates over the value of mask-wearing outside by public health experts and others.

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The CDC has been steadily updating its recommendations for fully vaccinated people (defined as two or more weeks after the final dose of your vaccine schedule) as the rollout has continued. Last month, it advised that fully vaccinated people were safe to socialize indoors unmasked with other vaccinated people or with members of a single unvaccinated household.

CDC recommendation on April 27, 2021
Graphic: CDC

Some public health experts and journalists have argued that outdoor masking should be seen as largely unnecessary, given the current evidence. On a practical note, that would mean striking down outdoor mask mandates, which are still enforced by a few states. The basic argument is that outdoor transmission of covid-19 is very rare, especially outside of crowded environments where people are interacting for long periods of time. And while the “risks” of masking outside are next to nil, some have also argued that people shouldn’t mistakenly believe that this is an important way of lowering their transmission risk, next to clearly effective measures like the ventilation of indoor spaces. More recently, the debate over mask-wearing has morphed into a nonsensical right-wing talking point, with pundits such as Tucker Carlson arguing that making children wear masks outside is akin to child abuse.