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People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks or physically distance indoors with few exceptions, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“If you are fully vaccinated, you may start doing the things you stopped doing because of the pandemic,” said CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H. “We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”
Masks still must be worn in health care settings and on public transportation, and people need to follow state and local laws and local business rules.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. About 117.6 million people, 35.4% of the population, are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Dr. Walensky recommends anyone who is immunocompromised talk to a doctor before shedding their mask. In addition, anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms should return to mask wearing and get tested.
The CDC said it changed its guidance based on several factors. Case counts and deaths have fallen to just under 37,000 and 600 per day, respectively. In addition, new studies have shed more light on how the virus spreads and have shown the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, including against variants. Vaccines also are now available to everyone ages 12 and older.
The updated guidance comes about two weeks after the CDC told people who are fully vaccinated they no longer needed masks outdoors. Dr. Walensky warned the recommendations could change if there’s a spike in case counts or new variants.
Dr. Walensky also announced Thursday that $7.4 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan would soon be released to support public health efforts. About $4.4 billion will go to help expand state and local public health departments and $3 billion will help prepare jurisdiction for future pandemics.
“Since becoming CDC director, I have seen firsthand the current frail state of the public health infrastructure in this country,” Dr. Walensky said. “I’ve committed to upgrading the public health system so the nation is ready for whatever comes next.”