New CDC Guidelines Outline When Fully Vaccinated People Can Go Maskless

I don't have to tell you that over the past year, we've all had to adjust to a very different standard of living in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. And I especially don't have to tell you that the role of face masks in that standard of living haven't been the most popular tool in our collective kits to keep each other safe from the virus.

But as early as last month, the encouraging progress in America's vaccination rate has afforded the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention an opportunity to provide a few scenarios where it's safe for fully vaccinated people to shed their masks.

More recently, those guidelines have been updated again and they drive a much clearer separation between what's considered safe for a vaccinated person and what's safe for someone who hasn't received a dose yet.

In the latest of the CDC's guidelines for fully vaccinated people, those who had their final dose over two weeks ago can gather in more ways than before.

Although we had previously discussed that they could gather with other vaccinated people without wearing masks, the same now goes for small, outdoor gatherings with vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

And as CNN reported, fully vaccinated people can also dine mask-free outdoors at a restaurant with friends from multiple households.

These new guidelines were accompanied by a chart outlining what is safe and less safe for people at varying levels of vaccination using a color coded system.

As outlined on the chart obtained by Buzzfeed News, activities that those who are fully vaccinated might engage in range from "safe" to "safe as long as you're wearing a mask."

For unvaccinated Americans, however, there are many more activities that are coded in yellow for "less safe" and in red for "least safe."

As an epidemiologist named George Rutherford told the outlet, "This is complicated, but complexity is the price for allowing people to go without masks early. If you want simple rules, then we just wear masks until every last one of us is vaccinated."

But while fully vaccinated people now get to wear masks less often than others, there are still many situations where they are recommended to keep them on.

As the chart reveals, most of these situations involve indoor gatherings, which are either considered "less safe" or "the least safe" for unvaccinated people depending on the activity and crowd involved.

As CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CNN, this is because recent data is showing an overwhelming difference in the likelihood between contracting COVID-19 indoors versus in outdoor gatherings.

In her words, "Less than 10% of documented transmission in many studies have occurred outdoors."

And so, those with all needed doses of their vaccines are advised to wear a mask at indoor gatherings, some of which are considered particularly unsafe for unvaccinated citizens.

For instance, the CDC considers visiting a salon, riding public transportation with "limited occupancy," and visiting a sparsely attended shopping center or museum "less safe" with the yellow color code.

However, visiting an indoor movie theater, attending church when it's at full capacity, singing in an indoor choir, eating at an indoor restaurant, and attending high intensity exercise classes indoors are all considered red-coded activities for those who haven't received vaccines.

The only exception to this rule of thumb is that both vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans are advised to wear masks at crowded outdoor events like music festivals or sports events.

As Buzzfeed News reported, this has more to do with the difficulty in telling the difference between someone who's been vaccinated and who hasn't been than any specific risk to those who have received their doses.

That said, such events are considered red-coded for those who haven't received vaccines.

In Rutherford's words, "The bottom line is we are only going to get to us all not having masks when we have herd immunity, when most of us get fully vaccinated."

h/t: CNN, Buzzfeed News

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