WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday said people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can safely participate in indoor and outdoor activities without a mask — an announcement that comes just two weeks after the agency released more cautious guidance.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters that fully vaccinated people can participate in activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or social distancing. The change comes as the agency has come under fire for being overly cautious and underselling the benefits of vaccination.
When asked whether the science had changed in recent days or whether the messaging change was a response to criticism, Walensky said that cases have dropped by a third over the last two weeks, adolescents are now eligible for vaccines, and new studies have suggested that vaccines are highly effective against Covid-19 variants.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic,” the CDC website now states.
Masks will still be required during travel on buses and trains and in airports, Walensky said. She also said that health care facilities will follow their own infection control guidelines.
President Biden on Thursday afternoon said that the White House isn’t focused on enforcing mask wearing among people who have not been vaccinated, and is instead asking those people to wear a mask for their own protection and the protection of others.
“It’s not an enforcement thing, we are not going to arrest people,” Biden said.
Federal health officials on April 27 told people — even those who are vaccinated — to continue wearing masks in indoor settings and in crowded areas even if outdoors, at events like sports games or concerts.
Public health experts have said the initial guidance on mask-wearing for vaccinated people, which was accompanied by a color-coded chart, was confusing. The CDC released a new chart on Thursday showing that fully vaccinated people can participate in all of the listed activities without wearing a mask.