The top US health agency on Thursday announced it was lifting mask-wearing requirements for people fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a watershed moment in the pandemic.
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”
The move, which comes more than a year after the federal government recommended people cover their faces in public, follows accumulating data showing the extremely high efficacy of vaccines, not just to prevent symptomatic Covid-19 but also infection.
It sparked joyful reactions in some, while others were cautious and said they would keep their masks on in public out of caution, despite being fully vaccinated.
In the rare case that someone who is fully vaccinated becomes infected, research has shown they are unlikely to have a high viral load in their nose and therefore to transmit the disease onward.
According to the CDC’s website, masks may still be required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in US transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
Fully vaccinated international travelers arriving in the United States still need to get tested within three days of their flight, or show documentation of recovery from Covid-19 in the past three months.
Walensky said people who are immune compromised should talk to their doctor before giving up their mask.
It has been shown that immune compromised people do not respond as well to the vaccines.
Finally, she added, the guidance was subject to change if the situation gets worse.