ATLANTA — As more people become fully vaccinated, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines for masks on Tuesday.
For most of the pandemic, the CDC had been advising Americans to wear masks outdoors if they were within 6 feet of one another.
[SPECIAL SECTION: COVID-19 Vaccine in Georgia]
Under the new guidance, fully vaccinated people can go without a mask outside, eating with friends, walking or running with family outdoors.
It’s partly because of what scientists and doctors have learned about the risks for getting COVID-19 outside. We brought questions about the new guidance to experts. Here is what we know now.
Q: What’s the difference between wearing masks inside versus outside?
The CDC easing guidelines is partly because of what scientists and doctors have learned about the risks for getting COVID-19 outside.
Dr. Jayne Morgan is the executive director for Piedmont Healthcare’s COVID taskforce. She said the risk of infection is different for outdoor activities.
“It’s been pretty clear that only about 10% of infections occur outdoors. We are 18.7 times more likely to contract COVID when we are indoors,” Morgan said. “If you are vaccinated, fully vaccinated, we are expecting the CDC to come out to say that you can be maskless outdoors within reason. When you’re with other people who are vaccinated, or if you were simply passing people on the sidewalk. But if you have to stop and have a prolonged conversation, you need to put your mask on. So we need to have common sense with this.”
Q: When is it recommended to wear masks outdoors?
The CDC put together a chart that breaks down outdoor activities for vaccinated vs unvaccinated people.
Those who are fully vaccinated can walk, run or bike outdoors with household members; attend a small, outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated family and friends.
The recommendations suggest that unvaccinated people still wear a mask when attending a small, outdoor gathering with vaccinated and unvaccinated people; dining at an outdoor restaurant with people from multiple households.
The CDC says that people should keep wearing masks at crowded outdoor events such as concerts or sporting events, despite relaxing the guidelines. The same guidance applies to both people who are fully vaccinated and people who aren’t vaccinated.
Q: When is it recommended to wear masks indoors?
Whether you are fully vaccinated or you’ve chosen not to get a vaccine, the CDC highly recommends that you still wear a mask for indoor activities.
“Although these vaccines are extremely effective, we know that the virus spreads very well indoors,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “Until more people are vaccinated, and while we still have more than 50,000 cases a day, mask use indoors will provide extra protection.”
More than 54% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of any of the available COVID-19 vaccines, officials said.
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