Individuals who’re totally vaccinated in opposition to the coronavirus not must put on masks outside in the event that they’re strolling, operating, mountaineering or biking, both alone or with members of their family, and in small outside gatherings, federal well being officers introduced on Tuesday.
The danger of the virus spreading outside is so low that even unvaccinated people don’t must put on a masks in the event that they hike, jog, bike or run alone or with a family member, based on up to date recommendation launched by the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention.
Individuals who haven’t gotten their photographs also can go with no masks to small gatherings held outdoors so long as they’re with totally vaccinated family and friends.
The rules have been additional relaxed for immunized folks: They will take their masks off once they attend small gatherings with individuals who haven’t gotten their photographs, and once they dine at a restaurant outdoors with folks from a number of households. s.
The C.D.C. stopped wanting telling even totally vaccinated folks that they may shed their masks altogether in outside settings — citing the worrying threat that is still for transmitting the coronavirus, unknown vaccination ranges amongst folks in crowds and the still high-caseloads in some regions of the country.
But with the total number of vaccinations rising and the daily number of cases falling, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the C.D.C. — who warned several weeks ago that she felt a sense of “impending doom” — said she now feels more “hopeful.”
The United States is averaging around 55,000 new cases a day, a roughly 20 percent drop from two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database.
“I know the quarantine and shutdowns throughout the pandemic have been exhausting,” Dr. Walensky said. “I know we all miss the things we used to do before the pandemic and I know we all want to do the things we love and soon. Today is another day we can take a step back to normalcy of before.”
President Biden is to deliver remarks on the updated advice on Tuesday, linking the news with the administration’s public campaign to get most American adults vaccinated by summer and trying to offer reassurances that some semblance of normal life can return.
In presenting the new guidelines for wearing masks, public health officials on Tuesday emphasized how people who are inoculated could enjoy mask-free leisure activities, rather than how the guidelines also lifted some restrictions for those who had not gotten their shots. It was a concerted message at a time when vaccination rates have dipped, causing concerns about hesitancy in harder-to-reach populations.
But the C.D.C. is maintaining advice on other safety measures, saying all adults should continue wearing masks and staying six feet apart in large public spaces, like outdoor performance or sports events, indoor shopping malls and movie theaters, where the vaccination and health status of others would be unknown. And they still should avoid medium and large gatherings, crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, officials said.
“I welcome less restrictive guidelines about masking outdoors,” said Linsey Marr, an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech. “We know that transmission outdoors is much less likely to occur than indoors, because the virus cannot accumulate in the air outdoors. It’ll become rapidly diluted.”
But the guidelines themselves, which outline different masking recommendations for a variety of scenarios, seem overly complex, she said. “I can’t remember this. I would have to carry around a sheet of paper — a cheat sheet with all these different stipulations.” She added: “I worry that this is not as helpful as it could be.”
Americans have been whipsawed on the issue of mask-wearing advice since the beginning of the pandemic, when top health officials said people did not need them — in part because of severe shortages of protective gear for health care workers on the front lines.
And mask restrictions since then have been a patchwork from state to state, despite growing evidence of a mask’s protection for individuals and those around them. Many states have already lifted restrictions they had put in place for indoor and outdoor activities. Others like New York, however, have maintained mask-wearing requirements for when people cannot stay six feet apart even for outdoor spaces, citing the threat of potentially more contagious variants.
The vaccines are highly effective at preventing people from becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus.
“Scientifically the vaccines are good enough that it’s highly unlikely that someone who’s vaccinated is going to be exposed to enough virus outdoors to have a breakthrough infection,” Dr. Marr said.
Some experts also wondered if the new directives were confusing, by establishing different standards for those who are vaccinated and those who are not, even though it is impossible to know who is who.
“It’s not like you can go up to someone in public and say, ‘You don’t have a mask on – are you vaccinated?’” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. “Those who aren’t vaccinated will promptly take their mask off outdoors because no one can check.”
But, she said, that is probably fine, since the risk of transmission in outdoor settings is very low, absent close or prolonged contact with someone.
Dr. Mercedes Carnethon, an epidemiologist at Northwestern University, said the relaxed guidelines signal that “if you’re outside in a group of individuals who you know well, then it is safe to be without a mask if you were vaccinated. I don’t think that it goes so far as to change what our behavior needs to be in outdoor settings where we don’t know people, and we can’t distance.”
Masking and distancing are still generally recommended when gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one other household or with an unvaccinated person who is at high risk of severe illness from Covid, or who lives with a vulnerable person.
And there are scenarios in which wearing a mask outdoors can still be an important social signal, Dr. Carnethon said. For instance, no vaccine has yet been authorized for children under 16. “And when we’re going to require children to wear masks, at school and on the playground when they’re at school,” she said, “I think that it is responsible for the adults in the situation to model that behavior and normalize mask wearing even when outside.”
A growing body of research indicates that the risk of spreading the virus is far lower outdoors than indoors. Viral particles disperse quickly outdoors, experts say, meaning brief encounters with a passing walker or jogger pose very little risk of transmission.
Most if not all of the research about viral transmission outside was done before the vaccine was available.
A recent systematic review of studies that examined the transmission of the coronavirus and other respiratory viruses among unvaccinated individuals concluded that fewer than 10 percent of infections occurred outdoors and that the odds for indoor transmission were 18.7 times higher than outdoors. (The odds of super-spreading events were 33 times higher indoors.)