CDC eases its mask guidelines

Vaccinated people can now go without them outdoors, in some cases

By Mike Stobbe | The Associated Press

NEWYORK » The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its guidelines Tuesday on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces unless they’re in a big crowd of strangers.

And those who are unvaccinated can go outside without masks in some situations, too.

The new guidance represents another calibrated step on the road back to normal from the coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 570,000 people in the U.S.

For most of the past year, the CDC had been advising Americans to wear masks outdoors if they are within 6 feet of one another.

“Today, I hope, is a day when we can take another step back to the normalcy of before,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “Over the past year, we have spent a lot of time telling Americans what you can’t do. Today, I am going to tell you some of the things you can do, if you are fully vaccinated.”

The change comes as more than half of U.S. adults — or about 140 million people — have received at least one dose of vaccine, and more than a third have been fully vaccinated.

Walensky said the decision was driven by rising vaccination numbers; declines in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths; and research showing that less than 10% of documented instances of transmission of the virus happened outdoors. Dr. Mike Saag, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, welcomed the change.

Beachgoers walk along the Huntington Beach bike and pedestrian trail Tuesday. Many were without masks.  JEFF GRITCHEN — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

“It’s the return of freedom,” Saag said. “It’s the return of us being able to do normal activities again. We’re not there yet, but we’re on the exit ramp. And that’s a beautiful thing.”

Some experts portrayed the relaxed guidance as a reward and a motivator for more people to get vaccinated — a message President Joe Biden sounded, too.

“The bottom line is clear: If you’re vaccinated, you can do more things, more safely, both outdoors as well as indoors,” Biden said. “So for those who haven’t gotten their vaccinations yet, especially if you’re younger or thinking you don’t need it, this is another great reason to go get vaccinated now.”

The CDC, which has been cautious in its guidance during the crisis, essentially endorsed what many Americans have already been doing over the past several weeks.

The CDC says that whether they are fully vaccinated or not, people do not have to wear masks outdoors when they walk, bike or run alone or with members of their household. They can also go maskless in small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated people.

But unvaccinated people — defined as those who have yet to receive both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-shot Johnson& Johnson formula — should wear masks at small outdoor gatherings that include other unvaccinated people, the CDC says. They also should keep their faces covered when dining at outdoor restaurants with friends from multiple households.

And everyone, fully vaccinated or not, should keep wearing masks at crowded outdoor events such as concerts or sporting events, the CDC says.

The agency continues to recommend masks at indoor public places, such as hair salons, restaurants, shopping centers, gyms, museums and movie theaters, saying that is still the safer course for vaccinated people.

“Right now it’s very hard to tease apart who is vaccinated,” Walensky said, adding that the CDC guidance should be a model for states in setting their mask-wearing requirements.

The advice to the unvaccinated applies to adults and children alike, according to the CDC. None of the COVID-19 vaccines in use in the U.S. is authorized for children under 16.

“The biggest thing that it helps us is our mental health,” said Tim Stephens, a 52-year-old software salesman in Birmingham, Alabama, who suffered a bout of COVID-19 and has since gotten vaccinated.

“To be able to feel like we’re turning the corner and can confidently go out and experience life and do a lot of the things that we did before COVID became an acronym in our world. It’s one more step in the process of moving beyond this.”

In Oxford, Nebraska, population 800, hardly anyone wears a mask, and the school district dropped its mask mandate last month. Superintendent Bryce Jorgensen said maybe 10 of the 370 students are still covering their faces.

“What goes on in other states is what goes on in other states,” Jorgensen said. “You just can’t compare Chicago to Oxford, Nebraska. Things are just different.”

Dr. Babak Javid, a physician- scientist at the University of California, San Francisco, said the new CDC guidance is sensible.  “In the vast majority of outdoor scenarios, transmission risk is low,” Javid said.

Javid has favored outdoor mask-wearing requirements because he believes they increase indoor mask-wearing, but he said Americans can understand the relative risks and make good decisions.

He added: “I’m looking forward to mask-free existence.”  “The timing is right because we now have a fair amount of data about the scenarios where transmission occurs,” said Mercedes Carnethon, a professor and vice chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

What’s more, she said, “the additional freedoms may serve as a motivator” for people to get vaccinated.

Aid for India

President Joe Biden says the U.S. is sending “a whole series of help” to India to combat the coronavirus, including life-saving therapeutics.  Biden says the U.S. is sending the “mechanical parts” India needs to domestically produce COVID-19 vaccines. The president adds the administration is engaging in discussions about when the U.S. could send vaccine doses to India.

“I think we’ll be in a position to be able to share vaccines as well as know-how with other countries who are in real need. That is the hope and expectation,” Biden says.

On Monday, the White House announced it would share about 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine with the world once the vaccine passes federal safety and quality reviews.

India recorded more than 320,000 new cases of coronavirus infection as the surge weighed on the country’s health system.

The 323,144 new infections Tuesday raised India’s total past 17.6 million. It ended a five-day streak of recording the largest single-day increases in any country throughout the pandemic, but the decline likely reflects lower weekend testing rather than reduced spread of the virus.

The health ministry also reported another 2,771 deaths, with roughly 115 Indians succumbing to the disease every hour. The latest deaths pushed India’s total to 197,894, which experts say are probably an undercount.

People walk and bike in Huntington Beach on Tuesday. The CDC has eased its mask-wearing guidelines for fully vaccinated people when outdoors.  JEFF GRITCHEN — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

People wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus walk on a street in Philadelphia. On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear masks outdoors unless they are in a large crowd of people not from their household. However, the agency continues to urge people to wear face coverings at indoor public places, even if they have been fully vaccinated.  MATT ROURKE — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

0 0
masklessoutside.jpg

 

  • To Country: United States
  • From: 92570
  • User Alias: PostalBee
  • Posted On: 4/28/2021 8:22:23 AM
  • Expiration On: 5/28/2021 8:22:23 AM
  • Last Modified On: 4/28/2021 8:22:23 AM
  • Category: National News

Please Login to add comments.
Please login to reply or flag this note.
Email to friends using email, gmail, yahoo mail, hotmail, outlook, live mail.