People who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus no longer need to wear masks while indoors or outdoors or physical distance in either large or small gatherings, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced during a White House COVID-19 briefing Thursday.
Fully vaccinated individuals are still advised to wear masks while in crowded indoor settings such as while on public transportation and in hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.
"We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy," Walensky said. "Based on the continuing downward trajectory of cases, the scientific data on the performance of our vaccines and our understanding of how the virus spreads, that moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated."
Immunocompromised individuals should consult a physician before giving up masks, Walensky said, warning that if the country's case counts go back up the guidance could change.
"This virus can be unpredictable, so if things get worse there is always a chance we need to make a change to these recommendations," she said.
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People are also advised to go back to wearing masks and get tested right away if they develop possible COVID-19 symptoms, Walensky said.
When pressed whether public criticism pressured the CDC to update the recommendations, Walensky said the agency was following the science.
"I want to be clear that we followed the science here. While this may serve as an incentive for some people to get vaccinated, that is not the purpose, our purpose here is as a public health agency to follow the science and to follow where we are with regard to the science and what is safe for individuals to do," she said.