Americans fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will no longer have to wear masks outdoors when walking, running, hiking, cycling, alone, with members of their household, or when attending small outdoor gatherings, federal health officials said Tuesday with.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stopped telling these people to take off their masks completely outdoors, citing the worrying risk that remains for coronavirus transmission, unknown vaccination levels in people in crowds and the still high number of cases in some regions of the country.
Federal health officials and President Biden announced the updated advice Tuesday, linking the news to the government's public campaign to have most American adults vaccinated by the summer, and seeking assurances that some semblance of normal life can return.
But the C.D.C. maintains advice on other safety precautions and says vaccinated adults should continue to wear masks and stay in large public spaces such as public spaces. For example, keep a distance of two meters for outdoor performances or sporting events, indoor shopping malls and cinemas where the vaccination and health status of other people would be unknown. And they should still avoid medium and large gatherings, crowds and poorly ventilated rooms, officials said.
"I welcome less restrictive guidelines for outdoor masking," said Linsey Marr, aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech. “We know that it is much less likely to be transmitted outdoors than indoors because the virus cannot collect in the air outdoors. It dilutes quickly. "
However, the guidelines themselves, which contain different masking recommendations for a variety of scenarios, seem too complex, she said. "I can't remember. I would have to carry around a piece of paper – a cheat sheet with all these different provisions." She added, "I'm concerned that this is not as helpful as it could be."
What You Need To Know About The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Break In The United States
- On April 23, an advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted to lift a hiatus on Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine and put a label on an extremely rare but potentially dangerous bleeding disorder.
- Federal health officials are expected to officially recommend states lift the hiatus.
- The vaccine was recently discontinued after reports of a rare bleeding disorder surfaced in six women who received the vaccine.
- The overall risk of developing the disorder is extremely low. Women between the ages of 30 and 39 appear to be most at risk at 11.8 cases per million doses. There were seven cases per million doses in women between 18 and 49 years of age.
- Almost eight million doses of the vaccine have now been given. There was less than one case per million doses in men and women aged 50 and over.
- Johnson & Johnson had also decided to postpone the launch of its vaccine in Europe for similar reasons, but later decided to continue the campaign after the European Union Medicines Agency announced the addition of a warning. South Africa, devastated by a contagious variant of the virus, also stopped using the vaccine, but later continued to use it.
Since the pandemic began, when senior health officials said people didn't need them – in part because of the lack of protective equipment for frontline health workers – Americans have been flogged on the issue of advice on how to wear masks.
And mask restrictions have since been a patchwork of state to state, despite increasing evidence of a mask protecting individuals and those around them. Many states have already lifted the restrictions they put on indoor and outdoor activities. However, others like New York have retained the requirements for wearing masks for outdoor use, citing the danger of potentially more contagious variants.
However, the pace of vaccination has helped loosen these limits. To date, about 42 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and 29 percent have received both doses of the two vaccines that require double shots.
The vaccines are highly effective in preventing people from getting seriously ill with the coronavirus.
"Scientifically, the vaccines are good enough that it is highly unlikely that someone who is vaccinated will be exposed to enough virus outdoors to get a breakthrough infection," said Dr. Marr.
Early evidence also suggests that vaccinated people may be significantly less likely to transmit the virus, but the exact risks are not yet known.
Some experts also wondered if the new guidelines were confusing by setting different standards for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, even though it's impossible to know who is who.
"It's not that you can go up to someone in public and say," You don't have a mask on – are you vaccinated? "Said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California at San Francisco." Those who are not vaccinated immediately remove their mask outdoors because no one can look. "
But, she said, that's probably fine because the risk of transmission outdoors is very small if you aren't in close or prolonged contact with someone.
Dr. Mercedes Carnethon, an epidemiologist at Northwestern University, said the laid-back guidelines signal, "When you're out with a group of people you know well, it's safe to be mask-free if you've been vaccinated." I don't think it will go so far as to change our behavior in outdoor environments where we don't know people and cannot distance ourselves. "
Masking and distancing are generally still recommended when meeting with unvaccinated people from more than one different household, or with an unvaccinated person who is at high risk of serious illness from Covid or who lives with a vulnerable person.
And there are scenarios where wearing a mask outdoors can still be an important social signal, said Dr. Carnethon. For example, no vaccine has yet been approved for children under the age of 16. “And if we ask children to wear masks in school and on the playground when they are in school,” she said, “I think that it is responsible for the adults in the situation Model this behavior and normalize the wearing of masks outdoors. "
A growing body of research shows that the risk of spreading the virus outdoors is far less than indoors. According to experts, viral particles spread quickly outdoors, which means that brief encounters with a passing walker or jogger pose a very low risk of transmission.
Most, if not all, of the outdoor virus transmission studies were done before the vaccine was available.
A recent systematic review of studies examining transmission of the coronavirus and other respiratory viruses in unvaccinated people found that less than 10 percent of infections occurred outdoors and the likelihood of indoor transmission was 18.7 times higher than outdoors. (The likelihood of super-spreading events was 33 times higher indoors.)