The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new mask guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated. Now, those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks or engage in social distancing, the guidelines say. However, wearing a mask when you’re fully vaccinated is still necessary for a few key situations.
If you’re fully vaccinated and have waited at least two weeks after receiving the final dose of your COVID-19 vaccine, you can now resume most activities without masks or social distancing, according to the new recommendations. That includes outdoor activities (such as attending events with friends at a park or outdoor dining) and indoor activities (including eating indoors at a restaurant, going to a movie theater, or attending a workout class). Fully vaccinated people can also attend crowded events, as well, including outdoor sporting events and indoor religious services.
But there are still a few caveats. The CDC says these guidelines do not overrule local mask or social distancing requirements that individual areas of the country may have in place. And everyone is still required to wear a mask when traveling by plane, bus, train, or any other mode of public transit or when at transportation hubs, such as airports or train stations. The new guidelines also do not apply to health care settings (like hospitals, doctor offices, and long-term care facilities), where everyone must still wear masks.
More importantly, the CDC guidelines for unvaccinated people have not changed at all. They are still required to wear masks and stay at least six feet away from others in most instances, but they can go outside with members of their household or gather with family and friends who are fully vaccinated outdoors without masks.
While this may be welcome news to many, these new changes have also raised a few concerns. Many experts have criticized the CDC for changing the guidelines so suddenly—and at a time when different groups of people have gotten vaccinated at very different rates. CDC tracking data shows about 30% of white people in the U.S. have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. In comparison, only 22% of Hispanic/Latino people have gotten one and only 20% of Black people have gotten a shot. And while 26% of white people are fully vaccinated, only 16.7% of Black people and 16.4% of Hispanic/Latino people are.
Another major issue is finding a way to enforce the guidelines. Currently, there isn’t an easy (or noninvasive) way to assess who is and isn’t vaccinated. So, for now, many local areas and private businesses are keeping their mask requirements in place despite the new CDC guidelines. And ultimately, these new guidelines don’t mean the pandemic is over. We have to continue to stay focused on protecting each other and making sure everyone has access to the COVID-19 vaccines.