President Joe Biden on Tuesday reiterated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated guidance that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need masks while outdoors except in crowded settings.
The agency had released the new guidance shortly before Biden was set to provide an update on the pandemic.
"Earlier today the CDC made an important announcement. Starting today if you are fully vaccinated and outdoors, not in a big crowd, you can go without a mask," the president said, noting that masks are still required in crowded spaces, such as a music concert, regardless if it is outdoors.
But when it comes to gathering with a group of friends in the park or going for a picnic, "you can do this without a mask," he said, noting that the federal health agency was able to change its guidance because the "odds of getting or giving the virus are very low out in open air."
"If you are vaccinated you can do more things more safely indoors and outdoors," the president continued. "For those who haven't gotten it, this is another good reason to get vaccinated. It’s about saving your life [and the lives] of those around you; it's about getting back to normal life."
Earlier Tuesday, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 briefing before Biden’s news conference that current scientific evidence shows there are "many situations" where fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask, "particularly if they are outdoors."
Walensky said those who are fully vaccinated, or 14 days post-second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks past the Johnson & Johnson one-dose jab, can attend a small outdoor gathering with people who are vaccinated or unvaccinated or dine with friends from multiple households without a mask.
During the briefing, Walensky noted that less than 10% of documented coronavirus transmission has occurred outdoors, and with increasing rates of vaccination and decreasing rates of new cases the agency was motivated to update its guidance.
On its website, the CDC said fully vaccinated people can gather or conduct activities outdoors without wearing a mask except for in certain crowded settings and venues. The update also clarified that fully vaccinated workers no longer need to be restricted from work following exposure as long as they are asymptomatic.
Walensky noted this is the third update the CDC has made regarding guidance for fully vaccinated individuals, and that as more people return for the second shot the agency will continue assessing for more updates. For now, the agency still recommends fully vaccinated people take certain precautions while in indoor public settings like wearing a well-fitted mask and avoiding indoor large-sized in-person gatherings.