US: Vaccinated people can stop wearing masks outdoors

By Lucia Leal

Washington, Apr 27 (EFE).- US health authorities concluded on Tuesday that people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 basically can stop wearing facemasks outdoors, except when they are in areas where large crowds have gathered.

The change in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, which are not obligatory and are only suggestions to the public, comes as a result of the rapid rate at which the country has been managing to vaccinate the population, with 37 percent of the adult public now fully immunized, according to the latest official figures.

“Starting today, if you’re fully vaccinated, and you’re outdoors … and not in a big crowd, you no longer need to wear a mask,” President Joe Biden told reporters on the White House grounds.

“The bottom line is clear,” he said. “If you’re vaccinated you can do more things, more safely, both outdoors as well as indoors.”

Biden described the recommendation announced by the CDC as a sign of the “stunning progress” that the US has made in the four months of its anti-Covid vaccination campaign.

He also said that this should help to convince those who still have doubts about getting vaccinated – a group comprising up to 40 percent of the US population, according to a survey released Sunday by CBS News – that getting immunized provides significant protection.

“Yes, the vaccines are about saving your life, but also the lives of the people around you,” Biden said. “But they’re also about helping to get us back to closer to normal … Getting together with friends, going to the park for a picnic without needing to mask up.”

The new recommendation applies to those US residents who have received all the required doses needed for the various vaccines they may have received, provided that they have waited a sufficient length of time after the last shot – generally two weeks – to become fully immunized.

At that point, Americans can remove their masks when they are walking, running or riding a bicycle in the open air, whether they are alone or are accompanied by people they live with.

They can also remove their masks at small outdoor gatherings or outdoor dinners at restaurants with friends or relatives, provided that their companions have received all their required vaccine doses and have waited the two weeks it takes for the body to become fully immunized.

The places health authorities still recommend that people keep their masks on are at open-air events where large numbers of people are present, such as concerts, parades or sports events such as baseball games, the CDC said.

And they should continue wearing masks in closed spaces, such as while sitting indoors at restaurants or bars, in museums, theaters, hair salons, gymnasiums and churches, as well as on public transport or at indoor gatherings with people who may not have been vaccinated.

However, the CDC said that these kinds of indoor gatherings are “safe” for those who are fully vaccinated and are wearing a mask, while those who have not yet been immunized continue to be significantly at risk of infection.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky said at a White House press conference that the move is a step toward normality, justifying the new recommendation by pointing to the speed with which the vaccination campaign has been undertaken and the growing amount of data showing that most infections occur indoors and fewer than “10 percent” of documented infections, according to many studies, have occurred outdoors.


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