"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," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.
While some media outlets remain skeptical of the relaxed mask guidance -- with only 100 million Americans fully vaccinated as of May 1 -- state officials across the country have taken the chance to relax restrictions where possible. Some states have said they will review their policies and wait before adopting the new CDC guidance.
Here are some of the changes states have announced in light of the new CDC guidance.
Gov. Kay Ivey welcomed the new CDC guidance, saying she was glad to see the CDC follow Alabama’s example.
"We Alabamians have already embraced this idea, and I am glad the CDC has made it official," Ivey said when asked about the new guidance.
Alabama dropped its statewide mask mandate on April 9. Ivey encouraged masks when in public or close contact with other people, but that guidance has eased following the CDC update.
Ivey, like many other governors, has used the new guidance as an opportunity to encourage unvaccinated individuals to schedule a shot.
"Aside from the COVID-19 vaccine being safe and effective, it is also allowing us to do the things we love and enjoy. Alabama is open for business. Alabama classrooms are open for students," the governor explained.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson rescinded a statewide mask mandate at the end of March, but several cities did not jump at the chance to do the same. Little Rock, Fayetteville and Rogers did not initially follow the governor’s initial policy change, but they adopted the new guidance starting Friday.
"Effective Saturday, May 15, 2021, the City of Little Rock is no longer requiring face coverings be worn," Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said in a statement.
Businesses will have a choice as to whether to uphold their own mandates, though, with Walmart immediately announcing a nationwide drop in mask mandates. Other chains, including Kroger, Target and Home Depot, said they would retain their current mask policies, the Arkansas Online reported.
The flexibility of policy choice will extend to health care centers, KARK reported, marking a stark difference between Arkansas and other states.
Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday that his state will implement the CDC's new guidelines starting May 19. The governor will leave it to businesses to decide whether or not they enforce an individual mask policy or not, FOX 61 reported.
"When it comes to your store or restaurant you can say masks are required or not. You have a lot of discretion there," said Governor Lamont.
"Unless you are in a very tight area, one of those particularly large events, where I would still recommend it, especially to those who are unvaccinated," Lamont said.
The state also approved vaccine eligibility for adolescents aged 12 to 15.
Gov. Ron DeSantis had already suspended all local emergency orders related to COVID-19 guidance as of May 3, including mask mandates. He also signed a law that limited local governments' ability to impose various measures including a possible "vaccine passport."
"I think if you are saying that, you are really saying you don't believe in the vaccines, you don't believe in the data, you don't believe in science," DeSantis said at the time.
DeSantis also removed statewide restaurant capacity restrictions back in September 2020, the Palm Beach Post reported.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker quickly followed the CDC announcement by declaring that Illinois will abide by the new guidance, saying that he "firmly believes in following the science" and "intends to revise his executive orders in line with the upcoming CDC guidelines."
"The governor believes firmly in following the science and will be delighted to revise his executive orders in line with the CDC guidance lifting additional mitigations for vaccinated people," the state health department said in a statement. "The scientists’ message is clear: If you are vaccinated, you can safely do much more."
Some areas, like Chicago, will largely follow the new guidance, although they will possibly create "additional categories" for when mask-wearing should continue, ABC Chicago reported.
The city of Springfield will similarly maintain its mask mandate, for the time being, the State Journal-Register reported.
The statewide announcement did not clarify when the new guidance would take effect; however, the state is aiming to ease all restrictions as soon as June 11 as part of the governor's "Restore Illinois" plan.
Gov. Eric Holcomb dropped the state’s mask mandate on April 6, but Marion County, which contains Indianapolis, has resisted changing its own mandates.
Despite the CDC update, Marion County officials said they will take time to review the guidelines before making any revisions to their policies.
"In Marion County, the outlook is good — but efforts to get more people vaccinated and reduce the impact of COVID-19 continue," said Dr. Virginia A. Caine, chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department.
About 29% of all residents in Marion County are fully vaccinated, the Indy Star reported.
Gov. Kim Reynolds was one of the first to drop mask mandates, removing the guidance on Feb. 7 and issuing new rules instead to encourage "reasonable public health measures."
Mask mandates continued in a number of cities, though, including Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
Those holdouts changed their stances when the CDC updated its guidance, though, with Des Moines rescinding its policy Friday, the Des Moines Register reported. Cedar Rapids exempted those who are fully vaccinated from any mask or distance guidelines.
"I want to thank our residents, business owners and visitors for understanding the importance of this authorization and for adhering to the rules," Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said in a statement. "Your diligence helped keep us safe and healthy."
Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday praised the CDC’s announcement as "the news we have all been waiting for."
He said that "hundreds of thousands" of vaccine appointments remained and used the new guidance to urge residents to schedule a vaccine if they had not already done so.
Beshear made the guidance official Friday morning when he announced that the mask mandate will expire June 11 along with a return to 100% capacity for all venues, WSAZ reported.
In the meantime, the state will mirror the CDC's guidance on masks. Beshear said that businesses do not need to check vaccination cards, and he encouraged social distancing when needed.
However, Beshear largely left guidance to city and county officials to determine.
Gov. John Bel Edwards revised Louisiana’s mask guidance, reflecting the CDC’s update.
The governor announced the change on Friday, saying it would apply to all vaccinated people in all settings except for schools, public transit, prisons and nursing homes, WDSU reported.
Businesses will also be able to decide whether or not they want to keep the indoor mask policies in place.
New Orleans immediately lifted its mandate, with some residents saying that it was like watching the city "reawaken."
Gov. Janet Mills announced Friday that Maine will drop its indoor mask mandates for fully vaccinated individuals as well as distancing requirements starting May 24.
The state already dropped its outdoor mask mandate in late April, aligning with the CDC guidance at the time. Mills said Thursday that she would review the new guideline on masks, but quickly decided on a timeline, NECN reported.
"We welcome this new guidance and we agree – being vaccinated is the best way to protect you and your loved ones from COVID-19," Mills said. "After a review of the new guidance, we are adopting the U.S. CDC’s recommendations, and we continue to strongly urge all Maine people to get their shots."
Businesses in Maine will be free to maintain mask and health policies.
Gov. Larry Hogan lifted the state’s mask mandates effective Saturday. Masks will remain in use depending on circumstances, such as when on public transit and in spaces where large crowds cannot be avoided, such as schools, airports daycare centers and health care facilities.
Local governments and businesses will have the power to enforce mask requirements if they wish, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Most local officials, though, indicated they would follow Hogan’s lead and drop requirements aside from Baltimore, which announced that mask requirements would remain for large indoor and outdoor venues until vaccination levels reached a more acceptable level.
"Today is the day that so many of us have been waiting for and working toward," Hogan said. "We finally do clearly see the light at the end of that tunnel. Our long, hard-fought battle against the worst global pandemic in more than a century is finally nearing an end."
Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday that his administration would align with the new guidance starting May 29. The previous mask mandate was issued at the end of April and largely aligned with the CDC's then-current guidance.
The state will issue a new face-covering advisory that will be "consistent" with the new CDC guidance.
Face coverings will still be mandatory on all forms of transportation and in healthcare facilities.
Face coverings will also remain required indoors for staff and students of K-12 schools and early education providers.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has come under consistent criticism for her handling of the pandemic, with Michigan at one point garnering national attention for the anti-mask protests at the state capitol in the early months of the pandemic.
However, Michigan has been one of the first states to adopt the new CDC guidance, with Whitmer announcing Friday that the state will no longer require fully vaccinated individuals to wear a mask indoors or outdoors.
"The commitment by Michiganders to receive the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is allowing us to move toward a return to normal," said the state's health department director, Elizabeth Hertel.
"The vaccines work. That means once Michiganders are fully vaccinated, they do not have to abide by as many health guidelines because of the protection the vaccine provides from the spread of the virus."
The new guidance fully removes the need for a mask outdoors at all, with all state mandates set to expire after July 1, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The new state order takes effect Saturday at 9 a.m.
Gov. Tim Walz said Thursday that the state will allow people to ditch their masks, signing an executive order Friday to end the mask mandate he enacted in July 2020.
Walz applauded the new guidance as "exciting" and a "great day" for the country.
"And I think first and foremost it reflects the discipline and the commitment here in Minnesota and in many places across the country to protecting not only themselves, but their neighbors," Walz said.
State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm voiced concerns about the move, noting the state is still fourth-highest in the country in new cases. She believes the current level of vaccination is "not nearly enough."
Gov. Greg Gianforte signed legislation earlier in the week that nullified local mask mandates across the state.
Counties jumped at the chance to ease restrictions, with Lewis and Clark County immediately dropping its mask mandate; however, health officials asked individuals to still wear masks if they find themselves in crowded indoor situations or if they have not been vaccinated yet.
The change was made ahead of the CDC's change to guidance. Some counties, therefore, pushed back on the immediate nullification, according to the Great Falls Tribune.
However, the bill mainly focused on giving businesses the power to decide for themselves what to enforce.
Gov. Steve Sisolak had signed an emergency directive on May 3 that aligned the state's mask guidance to any subsequent CDC recommendations.
As such, the state has followed the CDC's updated guidance effective immediately, though, businesses may require patrons to mask up, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
"Private entities and organizations may have mask policies that are more restrictive than the CDC guidance," the state said. "Workers should consult with their employers regarding workplace COVID-19 safety protocols."
The Vegas Chamber of Commerce recommended that businesses maintain any mask mandates.
"Not every employee or customer may be vaccinated, so we urge businesses to play it safe by continuing to require mask-wearing," chamber President and CEO Mary Beth Sewald said. "Keeping COVID cases down is the key to fully reopening Las Vegas for the long-term and re-energizing our economy."
Gov. Chris Sununu allowed the state’s mask mandate to expire April 16, though, state officials still encourage masks and face-coverings where local governments still require it.
Several cities, such as Concord and Nashua, have maintained their mandates.
The state also dropped most other pandemic health measures on May 7, instead implementing a "Universal Best Practices," NBC 10 Boston reported.
Dr. Benjamin Chan, state epidemiologist, continued to stress the importance of continued mask wearing even without a mandate to do so. He questioned the timing of the CDC’s guidance, saying he had "concerns," NHPR reported.
"There’s also a lot of logistical questions that come to mind with this kind of change," Chan said. "This is a big change."
Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that his state will adopt new guidance, along with New York and Connecticut, which will go into effect starting May 19.
The move follows a three-day examination of the CDC's new guidelines, with each tri-state administration agreeing to the changes.
"This virus is on the run, and it is thanks to each and every one of you," Murphy said at a press conference.
The state's mask mandate will remain in place for indoor public spaces, but will remove the requirement for vaccinated people in private settings. New Jersey will remove a need for masks outdoor in any setting.
Students will resume full in-person learning in 2021-22. Full time remote learning options will no longer be available.
The state is also lifting its travel advisory, removing the need for quarantine when moving and out of the state.
New Jersey will remove capacity limits for indoor and outdoor businesses and houses of worship, NBC New York reported.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo finally relented after three days and announced that his state would, in fact, align its mask guidance with the CDC.
The new guidance takes effect May 19. The move will occur in tandem with New Jersey and Connecticut.
"All the arrows are now pointed in the right direction, so let’s get back to life," Cuomo said during a news conference.
Fully vaccinated individuals will no longer be required to wear masks or face coverings, and many businesses will see the state lift capacity restrictions as well, USA Today reported.
Mask requirements will remain in place in nursing homes, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, schools and health care facilities, as well as on public transit, NBC New York reported.
Private venues will still be able to impose additional rules as they see fit.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced Friday that his state will roll back the majority of COVID-19 health policies.
In addition to suspending most mandatory mask mandates, Cooper will lift all mandatory rules for capacity, gathering limits and physical distancing, WTVD reported.
"The pandemic is still here, especially for those who are not vaccinated," Cooper said. "Get vaccinated now. If you don’t listen to me, listen to your doctor and do what your doctor tells you."
Masks requirements will remain for public transit, as well as childcare centers and schools and in public health settings, The Charlotte Observer reported.
Local governments will also be able to enact tough health protocols if they deem it necessary.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday that he would end the state's mask mandate on June 2, removing any need for a mask in any setting.
The state will also allow other health orders to lapse, except for those related to nursing homes and assisted facilities, the Daily Record reported.
"The vaccine is here. It's stronger and better than medical experts ever imagined," DeWine said during a speech broadcast statewide. "Everyone can now control their own health. Everyone can now control their own destiny."
Schools and businesses will be free to set their own requirements after the state orders expire, however.
Grocery chain Giant Eagle said Thursday night that its stores will maintain a mask mandate for the near future, WKBN reported.
Gov. Kate Brown announced Thursday that the state will immediately mirror new CDC guidance on masks and other health policies, easing the need for masks in various settings for vaccinated individuals.
"Starting today, Oregon will be following this guidance, which only applies to fully vaccinated individuals," Brown said in a statement. "That means Oregonians who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most public spaces."
The state will continue to revise and update specific guidance for businesses, but Brown noted that businesses may continue with current policies, KATU reported.
"Oregonians now have a choice of how to protect themselves and others from COVID-19," Brown added. "Either get vaccinated, or continue wearing a mask and following physical distancing requirements."
Pennsylvania officials announced Friday that they will also mirror CDC guidance, meaning that fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear face masks, whether indoors or outdoors.
"Today’s guidance from the CDC affects only people who are fully vaccinated," said Pennsylvania acting Health Secretary Alison Beam. "This is another incentive to get the vaccine that is now easily and conveniently available. Once 70% of Pennsylvanians over 18 are fully vaccinated, we can completely lift the masking order."
Pennsylvania announced earlier in the week that it will target a full reopening on Memorial Day, although some cities -- such as Philadelphia -- will hold off until June to allow a full rollback, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
By May 31, all restrictions on capacity will be completely removed, as will any limits on the size of indoor or outdoor gatherings.
Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, called the announcement "the long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel and a return to sense of ‘normalcy.’"
Gov. Ralph Northam lifted the state’s indoor mask mandate, having already eased mandates on outdoor masks in step with the CDC’s previous guidance.
Northam released a video message Friday, in which he credited the success of the state’s vaccine drive for the ability to change guidance, WTOP reported.
"That’s why we can safely move up the timeline for lifting mitigation measures in Virginia," Northam said. "I strongly urge any Virginian who is not yet vaccinated to do so — the vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19."
Northam also said the state would lift all distancing and capacity restrictions on May 28, advancing the original timeline by two weeks thanks to updated guidance from the CDC, FOX 5 DC reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.