In the news everyone has been waiting for, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on May 13 that people fully could ditch their masks indoors and outdoors stop social distancing as well. It was welcome news, especially as politicians and the public have been criticizing the as more people in the U.S.—over 35% today—have received an entire course of vaccinations. In addition, while initial research only showed that disease, recent data suggest that vaccinated people are also protected from getting infected with SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—and are therefore also far less likely to spread it.
In a, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky cited the , the real-world data showing the shots are working, the dropping case counts in the U.S., and scientific evidence that the that have emerged around the world as reasons for the updating the agency’s mask advice. “If you are , you can start doing things you stopped doing because of the pandemic,” she said. “We have all longed for this moment when we can return to some sense of normalcy. Based on the continuing downward trajectory of cases, the scientific , and the understanding of how the virus spreads, that moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated.”
There are still inconsistencies in the. However, that may confuse over the days and weeks. For example, the CDC still requires plane, bus, and train passengers to , regardless of their vaccination status. Walensky acknowledged the disconnect in the agency’s advice, saying, “We are going to be looking at all of our guidance and updating all of our guidance—including travel—shortly, now that we have this new guidance out there.” Walensky denied that the update incentivized more people to get vaccinated have slowed in recent weeks. Instead, she said, it was based on “the science.”
“Several things happened in the last two weeks,” she added. “Cases have dropped by a third, and in the, there is an increasingly available vaccine, which is now available for people 12 to 15 years. And we have had the coalescence of more science that emerged and improved [our understanding] for three reasons—one, on the , two, on the effectiveness against the variants, and three, the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing transmissibility.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, noted at the briefing that if fully vaccinated peoplein public settings, they should continue to do so. “People have to make their own choice,” he said. “What Dr. Walensky described as the [new] recommendation based on science, and it’s just a recommendation. There is nothing wrong with the individual who has a certain level of risk aversion and doesn’t want to take even the very low risk of and still wear a mask indoors or outdoors. Nothing is wrong with that, and they shouldn’t be criticized.”