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Vaccinated people can ditch masks and social distancing in most places, CDC says

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People who are fully vaccinated can shed their masks and gather indoors or outdoors without worrying about social distancing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today.

“If you were fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in a press conference today.

People are considered to be fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

There are a few caveats. Vaccinated people who are immunocompromised should talk to their doctor before getting rid of their masks, Walensky said. Certain settings will still require a mask, including health care settings, public transit, and on planes or trains. And if someone develops symptoms, they should mask back up.

She also cautioned that if the situation with the pandemic gets worse in the US, the guidance might change, too — if there is a spike in cases or a new outbreak, masks and social distancing measures may return.

The new announcement is a shift from just a few weeks ago when the CDC relaxed its masking recommendations for fully vaccinated people in some situations, mostly outdoors. At the time, it continued to encourage people to wear masks during most indoor activities.

In the two weeks since the CDC’s last update, Walensky noted that cases in the US have dropped by a third, and more people are now eligible for a vaccine. As of this week, vaccines are authorized for people 12 years and older in the United States.

Walensky also emphasized that additional data has shown that vaccines are effective in the general population and against variants. Studies have repeatedly shown that vaccines not only protect people from the virus that causes COVID-19, but that vaccinated people are unlikely to pass it to someone else.

Officials also emphasized that if people want to continue wearing masks in public, they can. “We know the risk is extremely low of getting infected If you’re vaccinated, whether you’re indoors or outdoors. But there are those people who don’t want to take that bit of a risk, and there’s nothing wrong with that and they shouldn’t be criticized,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a press conference.

“People have to make these decisions based on their own comfort,” Walensky agreed.

Currently, more than 46 percent percent of adults in the United States are fully vaccinated.

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