UPDATED, with comments from Joe Biden and Jennifer Garner: The Centers for Disease Control announced on Thursday that fully-vaccinated people can ditch their masks indoors — in most cases. The announcement further eases federal government recommendations for safety during the Covid-19 crisis.
“If you’re fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask,” President Joe Biden said in remarks from the Rose Garden.
“I think it’s a great milestone, a great day. It has been made possible by the extraordinary success we have had by vaccinating so many Americans so quickly.”
In a tweet, the CDC said, “If you are fully vaccinated against #COVID19, you can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, incl. local business and workplace guidance.”
UPDATE: If you are fully vaccinated against #COVID19, you can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, incl. local business and workplace guidance. More: https://t.co/FJMon7WlFO
— CDC (@CDCgov) May 13, 2021
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
The news was momentous enough to warrant special reports from the broadcast networks.
It was not immediately clear if California and local health officials would align with the new CDC guidance. The CDC’s guidance serve as a series of recommendations, but state and local authorities can impose stricter requirements based on circumstances.
The new CDC guidance does not completely drop mask recommendations for vaccinated people. Face coverings are still recommended in some settings — such as aboard planes and buses or in crowded settings such as hospitals.
Walensky also said people who are vaccinated but are immune compromised should “talk to your doctor before giving up your mask.”
The White House also tweeted about the news.
Big news from the CDC: If you’re fully vaccinated, you do not need to wear a mask – indoors or outdoors, in most settings.
We’ve gotten this far. Whether you choose to get vaccinated or wear a mask, please protect yourself until we get to the finish line. pic.twitter.com/XI4yPmhWaD
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 13, 2021
The announcement went out at the White House via email this afternoon that masks could come off. In the press area in the West Wing, there was a sense of relief and surprise. Some talked of how unusual — and freeing — it was to take them off indoors. The White House has had a set of strict restrictions that include Covid-19 testing each day for members of the press and other visitors. At a meeting with Republican senators in the Oval Office, Biden took off his masks along with other participants, according to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.).
In his remarks, Biden said that “we proved the doubters wrong” in reaching this moment.
“I need tp single out one more group for praise. The American people. For more than a year, you have endured so much,” he said.
The mask guidance had been in place for more than a year and, despite the health warnings to wear one, became a political issue, particularly when Donald Trump was still in office. Although he at points pointed to the CDC recommendation to people wear masks, he often went without one in public, nor did many of his supporters at campaign rallies and White House events.
Biden said that some may still choose to wear a mask, and he urged people to treat them with kindness and respect.
“We’ve had too much conflict, too much bitterness, too much anger, too much polarization of this issue about wearing masks. Let’s put it to rest,” he said.
He also said that if unvaccinated people got maskless, “we’re not going to go out and arrest people.”
“The fact of the matter is, I still believe the vast majority of the American people care about the safety of their neighbors and care about the safety of their families,” he said.
First Lady Jill Biden. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and actress Jennifer Garner were appearing in West Virginia to promote vaccinations when the new recommendations were announced.
“I kind of can’t believe I am standing here without a mask on looking at maskless faces,” Garner said at a local high school, as she credited the president and the state’s Republican governor, Jim Justice.
Last month, the CDC eased its guidance on wearing masks outdoors. The exception will be wearing marks in crowded venues, as well as in places like airplanes, hospitals and transit. The CDC released a new chart showing the current basic recommendations.
For Californians, the guidance would seem to clarify slightly contradictory statements from Governor Gavin Newsom in the past two days. On Tuesday, Newsom was asked by a reporter if there would be a mask mandate after June 15. The usually-loquacious Newsom said simply, “No.” He did go on to explain the rare circumstances where masks would still be needed.
“Only in those massively large [indoor] settings where people from around the world are convening & people are mixing in real dense spaces. Otherwise…no mandates,” he said.
On Wednesday, the California Governor seemed to remove the “massively large” from his indoor prohibition, telling reporters, “For indoor activities we still will have, likely, some mask mandates. But the hope is those will be lifted sooner rather than later.”
What that seems to mean for venues such as movie theaters is that, except where everyone is fully vaccinated, attendees will still need to wear masks for the foreseeable future.
City News Service contributed to this report.