President Biden and federal health officials said Tuesday that Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will no longer have to wear masks outdoors in most situations, except at large gatherings – a move, the president said, to save "life." to bring America closer to the normal ”Its target date is July 4th.
"Starting today, we're meeting a group of friends in a park to have a picnic," said Biden, speaking to reporters outside the White House on a "fine day" in Washington. "As long as you are vaccinated and outdoors, you can do this without a mask."
Just two days before his 100th day in office after US coronavirus cases, hospital stays and deaths fell sharply since January, Mr Biden noted that Americans have made "amazing strides". But his comments have been tempered with caution – masks are still necessary at outdoor concerts or sporting events, he said – an appeal to Americans who haven't already done so to roll up their sleeves and get a chance.
Not long ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines requiring Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus no longer need to wear masks outdoors when walking, running, hiking, or biking alone or with members of theirs Household and in small outdoor gatherings.
The risk of the virus spreading outdoors is so small that even unvaccinated individuals will not need to wear a mask when hiking, jogging, cycling, or running alone or with a household member, according to updated recommendations from the C.D.C.
People who have not yet taken a picture can go to small outdoor gatherings without a mask, as long as they are with fully vaccinated friends and family members.
The guidelines for vaccinated people have been further relaxed: they can take off their masks when attending small gatherings with people who have not yet taken pictures and when dining in an open-air restaurant with people from multiple households.
The C.D.C. I stopped telling even fully vaccinated people that they could take off their masks completely outdoors, citing the worrying risk that remains for the transmission of the coronavirus, unknown vaccination levels in people en masse, and the still high number of cases in some regions of the country.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the C.D.C. – who warned a few weeks ago that she felt a sense of "impending doom" – said she felt "more hopeful" now.
According to a New York Times database, the United States has an average of 55,000 new cases per day, a decrease of around 20 percent from two weeks ago.
"I know the quarantine and shutdowns were stressful during the pandemic," said Dr. Walensky. “I know we all miss the things we did before the pandemic, and I know we all want to do the things we love, and soon. Today is another day we can take a step back. "
Trying to link the news to the government's public campaign to have most American adults vaccinated by the summer, trying to reassure that a semblance of normal life can return, Mr Biden concluded his brief remarks on a public notice for the vaccine.
In unveiling the new guidelines for wearing masks, public health officials on Tuesday emphasized how vaccinated people can enjoy mask-free recreational activities rather than the guidelines also lifting some restrictions on those who haven't received their shots. It was a concerted message at a time when vaccination rates have dropped and raised concerns about reluctance among hard-to-reach populations.
But the C.D.C. maintains advice on other safety precautions and says that all adults continue to wear masks and stay in large public spaces, such as in large public spaces. For example, during outdoor performances or sporting events, indoor shopping malls and cinemas where the vaccination and health status of other people would be unknown, keep a distance of two meters. And they should still avoid medium and large gatherings, crowds and poorly ventilated rooms, officials said.
"I welcome less restrictive guidelines on 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.
Americans have been given advice on how to wear masks since the pandemic began, when senior health officials said people didn't need them – also because of the lack of protective equipment for frontline health workers.
And mask restrictions have since been a patchwork of state to state, despite increasing evidence of a mask protecting individuals and those around them.
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 has been 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.
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. Mercedes Carnethon, epidemiologist at Northwestern University. For example, no vaccine has yet been approved for children under the age of 16.
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.)