CDC Eases Up, Says People Don’t Always Need to Wear Masks Outdoors

People wait in line to enter Prospect Park Market in New York City. Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images

The CDC revised its public-health guidance on Tuesday, saying fully vaccinated people can do most activities outdoors without wearing a face mask and non-vaccinated individuals can forgo masks in some cases. The updated guidance comes as nearly 29 million people in the U.S. have received all of their shots and another 42 million and counting are on their way with at least one shot received.

Fully vaccinated people can unmask outdoors if they are walking, running, hiking, or biking alone or with members of their household. Small gatherings outdoors without wearing a face mask are also deemed safe. Unvaccinated individuals may go without masks when walking or jogging outdoors with household members, but small outdoor gatherings with multiple households are less safe. Both groups are recommended to wear masks at crowded outdoor events such as concerts.

The updated guidance comes after weeks of debate on whether outdoor mask mandates are necessary as the nation vaccinates more Americans. Studies have consistently found the risk of COVID-19 is significantly reduced when outdoors, particularly when individuals are socially distanced.

Whether you are fully vaccinated or not, wearing a mask in public spaces indoors remains a must, the CDC says. “In public spaces, the vaccination status of other people or whether they are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 is likely unknown,” the CDC wrote in its guidance. “Therefore, fully vaccinated people should continue to follow guidance to protect themselves and others, including wearing a well-fitted mask, when indoors or in an outdoor setting or venue where masks are required.”

“The message is clear: ‘You’re vaccinated, guess what? You get to return to a more normal lifestyle. If you’re not vaccinated, you’re still in danger,” Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra said Tuesday in an interview with CBS This Morning.

CDC Eases Up, Says Masks Outdoors Not Always Needed