“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Thursday.
Fully vaccinated people now do not need to wear a face mask or adhere to social distancing in outdoor or indoor settings, according to the updated guidance.
There are some exceptions to the rule, however, as masks are still recommended for unvaccinated individuals, in businesses that require them, as well as hospitals and other settings.
“This is an exciting and powerful moment, it could only happen because of the work of so many who made sure we have the rapid administration of three safe and effective vaccines,” Walensky said.
Some were skeptical of the celebratory tone, seeing it as a political move to declare an end to the pandemic and an opportunity for the government to claim victory amid numerous looming crises.
Walensky added that Covid-19 is “unpredictable” and another spike in cases could force the CDC to update their guidelines once more to be stricter.
“The past year has shown us that this virus can be unpredictable, so if things get worse, there is always a chance we may need to make a change to these recommendations,” she said.
Ahead of the official announcement, Fauci also announced a revised position on masks in an interview with CBS News, saying fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks in outdoor settings.
“If you are going into a completely crowded situation where people are essentially falling all over each other, then you wear a mask,” he said.
The seeming flip-flop surprised many as Fauci has been one of the top promoters of continued mask-wearing, even getting into multiple heated exchanges with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) on whether vaccinated Americans should continue wearing the face-coverings. Paul dismissed the over-preparedness as “theater” in March, but Fauci claimed the senator was “dead wrong.”
“He was saying if you’ve been infected, or you’ve been vaccinated, don’t wear a mask – which is completely against all public health tenets,” Fauci told CBS about Paul’s position.
While some criticized Fauci and the CDC, many celebrated the lifting of strict health guidelines. Some, however, took to social media to declare they will continue masking up even with the updated guidance.
President Joe Biden made his stance on masking clear in a Thursday tweet presenting Americans with two choices: get vaccinated or wear a mask.
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