CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said there are instances where individuals may need to wear masks, such as in a health care setting or at a business that requires masks. People will also have to abide by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial guidance, she said.
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” Walensky told reporters during a news conference. “If you are 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.”
Fully vaccinated people should still wear masks on buses, trains, airplanes, and other public transportation, she said, addng that for those who aren’t vaccinated, the CDC recommends that they wear masks in public spaces.
Some experts agreed with the relaxation, while others weren’t sure about the timing.
“I completely agree that people who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus are safe to stop wearing masks and to stop social distancing,” Dr. David Boulware, professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, told The Epoch Times in an email.
“There are a few caveats. The risk of any infection is not zero, but the risk of developing symptomatic disease is very low, and the risk of severe disease or death is virtually zero. There are exceptions. For people with weakened immune systems, they remain at risk and absolutely should continue to socially distance and wear masks. Those who are not vaccinated should get vaccinated because they also remain at risk.”
But Dr. Walid Gellad, associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said on Twitter there is “ZERO justification for doing this now except to soothe people who are asking for it.”
“The right thing is to tell people that we’re in this together, feel free to remove mask outdoors, but continue to wear indoors until X percent are vaccinated and cases are down to X – soon,” he said.
The announcement comes as the Biden administration has faced mounting pressure to ease the guidance on mask-wearing for people who are vaccinated. Some have questioned why it’s still required to wear a mask after getting the shot, saying that it undermines the federal government’s messaging for people to get the vaccine.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has called on Floridians who are vaccinated to “act immune” and argued that they should permanently ditch their masks.
During a meeting on vaccines with President Joe Biden and a group of governors, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, echoed DeSantis’s comments that “we have fully vaccinated people” who “should start acting like it.”
“That’s a big motivation [to] get the unvaccinated to want to to get vaccinated,” Cox argued.
A number of states in recent weeks have moved to ease mask guidance in public or outside. According to a recently compiled list, 25 state governments, as well as the governments of Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, have mask orders in place.
Critics of the move to ease mask-wearing have said that there’s no way for businesses to determine who is fully vaccinated from those who are not. New York state, several areas in California, Cyprus, Israel, and other countries have begun to roll out various “vaccine passport” systems, which have been criticized by civil liberties groups as an infringement on individuals’ privacy while creating a two-tier class system of vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
On May 13, Walensky said there are some exceptions to the new guidance. People who have diminished immune systems, including people who have received organ transplants or treatment for cancer, should speak to a doctor about ditching their masks.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.