Most fully vaccinated Americans can attend indoor gatherings of any size without masks or social distancing, though masks are still required for travel, according to updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued on Thursday.
The new guidance for fully vaccinated individuals—those who are at least two weeks beyond a complete series of an approved vaccine—indicates that it is safe for them to participate in “indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without masks or social distancing,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in a news briefing. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things you stopped doing before the pandemic.”
The guidance is based on data showing vaccine effectiveness, indicating that they largely prevent both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections. In cases when a vaccinated person is infected, they have symptoms of shorter duration and severity as well as a lower viral load, meaning they are less likely to spread Covid-19 to others, Walensky said. Studies also have indicated that vaccines are effective against the variants that are spreading, she said.
The new guidance does not apply to immunocompromised, fully vaccinated individuals, who should check with their doctor about what activities are safe for them, according to Walensky. It also does not apply to certain locations, such as health care facilities, where virus spread is more likely.
The guidelines are unchanged for the unvaccinated, who should still mask and practice social distancing. That means businesses can keep their own requirements—which the CDC says still should be followed—given that they will have no easy way to differentiate between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, who still pose a risk of transmission to their own employees as well as their patrons. As such, the federal mask requirement for public transportation—including airplanes, airports, trains and buses—remains in place, Walensky said.
She also cautioned that recommendations could tighten back up in the future.
“This past year has shown the virus can be unpredictable,” she said. “If things get worse, we may have to change these recommendations.”