CDC says vaccinated people can take masks off outside in small gatherings

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The agency has released new guidance for uncrowded areas outdoors

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Tuesday that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a mask in small outdoor gatherings or when dining outside with friends from multiple households. 

"If you are fully vaccinated and want to attend a small outdoor gathering with people who are vaccinated and unvaccinated, or dine at an outdoor restaurant with friends from multiple households, the science shows if you are vaccinated, you can do so safely unmasked," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a virtual White House briefing on Tuesday.

While masks can now come off for small outdoor gatherings, the CDC still recommends that vaccinated individuals avoid large gatherings. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated people should still wear masks in indoor public spaces, like malls, movie theaters, or museums. Walensky said that in these settings, “we really do worry about protecting the unvaccinated people."

"Generally, for vaccinated people, outdoor activities without a mask are safe. However, we continue to recommend masking in crowded outdoor settings and venues, such as packed stadiums and concerts where there is decreased ability to maintain physical distance and where many unvaccinated people may also be present," Walensky said. "We will continue to recommend this until widespread vaccination is achieved."

The agency didn’t specify how many people would have to be in attendance in order for it to be considered a large gathering. However, the CDC website describes "large gatherings" as those that bring together "many people from multiple households in a private or public space."

Encouraging vaccinations

President Biden used the CDC’s Tuesday announcement as an opportunity to encourage all Americans to get vaccinated. 

"The bottom line is clear, if you're vaccinated, you can do more things, more safely, both outdoors as well as indoors," Biden said during remarks at the White House on Tuesday afternoon. "So for those who haven't gotten their vaccination yet, especially if you're younger, or thinking you don't need it, this is another great reason to go get vaccinated. Now."

The president added that it's “never been easier” to get a vaccine. “And once you're fully vaccinated, you can go without a mask when you're outside, and away from big crowds," Biden said.

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