If you’re fully vaccinated, you could go out without a mask. But state and city mandates may still require face coverings.
On Thursday, May 13, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its broadest easing of pandemic recommendations so far, stating that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks either indoors or outdoors.
“We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said. “That moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated.”
Do you still have to wear face masks indoors and outdoors?
Fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear a mask or physically distance when outdoors or indoors, in large or small gatherings, according to the new CDC guidelines.
That said, the fully vaccinated should continue to wear a mask while traveling by plane, bus or train, and the guidance doesn’t apply to certain locations such as hospitals, nursing homes and prisons.
Unvaccinated people remain at risk, Dr. Walensky said, and should continue to wear masks and get vaccinated as soon as possible. People who are immune compromised should speak to their doctors to help determine whether to keep masking, she said.
As a fully vaccinated person, how does this affect me?
You could go out without a face mask. But the reality is that, at least for the near term, you are most likely going to end up needing to carry a mask with you, taking it on and off according to the circumstance.
Some state and city mandates still require masks. Some businesses, restaurants and retailers may also continue to require face coverings because it would be hard for them to tell who is and isn’t vaccinated.
Walmart Inc., the country’s largest private employer, said that starting Tuesday it would no longer require vaccinated workers and shoppers to wear masks in stores and warehouses outside municipalities that require it. Other national retailers said they were reviewing the CDC’s changes. The Retail Industry Leaders Association, a trade group, asked customers who decline to wear masks to shop online or use curbside pickup services.
Kroger Co. , the nation’s biggest supermarket chain, said it would continue requiring masks and encouraging social distancing. Trader Joe’s, meanwhile, said it would drop its mask requirements for vaccinated customers.
While restaurants want to return to normal so they can get more business, they also want diners to feel safe enough to return, said the National Restaurant Association, which has decided not to update its masking guidance immediately.
Does the CDC guidance overrule local mask mandates?
No. Throughout the pandemic, states, cities and businesses have often set their own mandates on issues like mask wearing and occupancy limits.
Until Thursday, 26 states and the District of Columbia had statewide mask mandates still in place, according to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation. But after the updated federal guidance, almost all of those states retailored their rules.
States including North Carolina, Washington and Minnesota immediately adopted the new recommendations. Rhode Island and Maine will follow suit in coming weeks, while Kentucky will eliminate its mask mandate on June 11, allowing time for the unvaccinated and those aged 12 to 15 to get a vaccine, Gov. Andy Beshear said.
A handful of states said they were still reviewing the guidance. Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said the state would update its reopening plans early next week. For now, its mask order remains in place. Hawaii and New Jersey will also keep their statewide mask mandates for now.
In lifting Maryland’s mask mandate Friday, the Gov. urged kindness and respect as people begin to move on from the pandemic.
Some people feel comfortable getting back to normal life right away. For others, it may take more time before they feel safe. That’s perfectly OK.
How can you know if someone is vaccinated?
You won’t be able to. There will be no federal mandate for a single vaccination credential, leaving the issue of whether to require evidence and how to police it to local governments and the private sector.
The CDC considers people fully vaccinated either two weeks after receiving their second dose of an mRNA vaccine, such as the one from Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE or Moderna Inc., or two weeks after getting the single-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.