The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new coronavirus guidelines for vaccinated Americans on Tuesday that include updated recommendations on mask-wearing while outdoors.
The new guidance says people who have been fully vaccinated and have waited at least two weeks after their last shot do not need to wear masks outdoors when alone, with members of their household or in small gatherings. They may also forgo masks indoors with other fully vaccinated people, or with unvaccinated people from one other household, unless someone in the group is at heightened risk from COVID-19.
“I know that the quarantine and shutdowns throughout the pandemic have been exhausting,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a press conference. “I know that we all miss the things that we used to do before the pandemic, and I know that we all want to get back to doing those things that we love. And so, today is another day we can take a step back to the normalcy of before.”
Masks are still recommended in crowds and various other settings. The CDC released a detailed list of advised and unadvised activities on its website.
Significantly improved trends in new coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations have made these changes possible, Walensky said.
“Our seven-day average is just over 54,400 cases per day,” she said, “and this represents a really hopeful decline of about 21% from our prior seven-day average.”
In later remarks outside the White House, President Joe Biden credited “the extraordinary progress we’ve made in fighting this virus” for allowing these new guidelines, which he said are “helping us get back … to normal in our living.”
“We’re back to that place now, as long as you get vaccinated,” he said.
He emphasized that vaccinated people will still need to take precautions in crowded places, saying, “If you’re in a crowd, like at a stadium or a concert, you still need to wear a mask even if you’re outside.”
Biden will deliver his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. He is expected to outline his legislative priorities and list his administration’s accomplishments since taking office in January.
The CDC back in March issued its first set of guidelines for fully vaccinated people, saying it’s safe to visit other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask and physical distancing. If knowingly exposed to the virus, vaccinated people can also skip quarantining and undergoing testing so long as they remain asymptomatic.
The CDC has long encouraged people to congregate outdoors as opposed to indoors since there is more space to separate from others and more natural airflow, minimizing the risk of viral transmission.
“The risk of infection outside is really minimum. If you’re vaccinated, and you’re outside, it’s even less,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said Monday at a town hall event with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
If a gathering has to be inside, the CDC has encouraged that the space be well ventilated to allow for airflow. That’s because the virus can remain suspended in the air in tiny droplets that have been expelled from an infected person, increasing the chance of its transmission.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.