What The New CDC Outdoor Face Mask Guidelines Mean For You

If you’re fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask outside for the most part …

If you’re fully vaccinated — meaning it has been at least two weeks since you received the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or it has been two weeks since you got the Johnson & Johnson shot — then you “no longer need to wear a mask outdoors, except in certain crowded settings and venues,” the CDC now advises.

The CDC categorizes outdoor activities like walking, running or biking with members of your household as low-risk. The same goes for small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated family members and friends.

That change in guidance around outdoor mask-wearing is rooted in the fact that, now, more than a year into the pandemic, scientists know much more about how the coronavirus spreads and where transmission risk is highest.

“We know that indoor transmission is probably about 20 times higher than outdoor transmission,” Dr. Jarod Fox, an infectious disease specialist and chairman of Orlando Health’s Infectious Disease Group, told HuffPost, pointing to a systematic review of several studies that measured rates of outdoor transmission.

“Less than 10% of global cases over the past year have been associated with outdoor exposure, so the vast majority of cases have been from some sort of indoor, close-proximity exposure,” Fox added. Fresh air helps move and disperse the droplets that spread the coronavirus, and UV light may also play a role.

Fox noted that the research looking at outdoor transmission was conducted before widespread vaccination. That means the transmission risk outdoors now is likely even lower, particularly in areas where a large percentage of the population has been vaccinated.

… But fully vaccinated people *do* still need to wear masks in crowded settings.

Although fully vaccinated people can participate in outdoor recreation without wearing a mask, you should absolutely wear one if you’re going to be in a crowded outdoor setting, the CDC says. That might include a live performance, a parade or any kind of sports event.

That is because even though “breakthrough” cases of COVID-19 are extremely rare in those who have been fully vaccinated, they are possible. And in crowded settings, it’s difficult to maintain social distance, another key risk factor.

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