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Sharp Health News

New masking guidelines: a breath of fresh air

May 17, 2021

Family and friends dancing together.
Hand-washing, social distancing and wearing a face covering are just a few of the COVID-19 precautions we've grown used to over the past 14 months. But with the introduction of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, greater understanding of how the coronavirus spreads from person to person, and vastly improved COVID-19 case numbers, many of these restrictions are beginning to ease for people who are fully vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidelines last week, saying people age 12 and over who are fully vaccinated - meaning at least 2 weeks have passed since they either received the second dose of a 2-dose vaccine or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine - can refrain from wearing a mask and practicing social distancing in many situations.

"Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities - large or small - without wearing a mask or physically distancing," says Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC. "If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic."

New CDC guidance
If you are fully vaccinated, the CDC says that in non-health care settings you can:
  • Resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state or local rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
  • Resume travel within the U.S.
  • Refrain from COVID-19 testing before or after travel within the U.S. and refrain from self-quarantine after travel.
  • Refrain from COVID-19 testing before leaving the U.S. for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the U.S.
  • Refrain from COVID-19 testing following a known exposure as long as you are without any COVID-19 symptoms, known as being asymptomatic (with some exceptions for specific settings).
  • Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if you don't have any symptoms.
  • Refrain from routine COVID-19 screening testing.
Even unvaccinated people can enjoy some new relaxed guidance. For those who are unvaccinated, the CDC says that they can safely go mask-free when they:
  • Walk, run or bike outdoors with members of their household
  • Attend a small, outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated family and friends
Precautions to continue
However, while the risk of COVID-19 infection is rare when people are fully vaccinated, it is possible. Even after becoming fully vaccinated, people are encouraged to continue wearing face masks in crowded indoor settings, such as when using public transportation. People who are immunocompromised should talk with their doctor before planning to go without a mask in all public settings.

If fully vaccinated people experience any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, it is important that they return to wearing a mask, isolate themselves to avoid spreading COVID-19 to others, and be tested for COVID-19 to confirm or rule out infection.

"We continue to encourage every American to get vaccinated as soon as it's their turn," Dr. Walensky says. "The more people are vaccinated, the less cases we will have and the less chance of a new spike or additional variants emerging."

Get COVID-19 vaccine information and access to COVID-19 resources from Sharp HealthCare.

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