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Here’s when fully vaccinated people can drop their masks — and when they need to keep wearing them — according to the CDC

For the fully vaccinated, a mask may no longer be necessary for walking outdoors.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Fully vaccinated people can drop their masks when they’re doing outdoor activities, including exercising, barbecuing, or dining at a restaurant, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

Fully vaccinated people can unmask in the following scenarios, the CDC said:

  • When they’re walking, running, hiking, or biking outdoors alone or with members of their household;
  • When they’re attending a small outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated family and friends;
  • When they’re attending a small outdoor gathering with a mixture of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people;
  • When they’re dining at an outdoor restaurant with friends from multiple households.

“Generally, for vaccinated people, outdoor activities without a mask are safe,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC. “Today is another day we can take a step back to the normalcy of before.”

One exception, Walensky said, was that vaccinated people should wear masks at crowded outdoor events.

The new guidance added to the agency’s previous guidance on what fully vaccinated people could do, which focused on the things they could do indoors without masks, and what the rules were for travel.

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The CDC defines people as fully vaccinated if they are two weeks past their second Moderna or Pfizer shot, or two weeks past their single Johnson & Johnson shot.

CDC announces new mask-wearing guidance
On Tuesday the CDC said that fully vaccinated people could go outside without a mask, unless in a very crowded area, along with other mask-wearing updates.

Fully vaccinated people should still wear masks in many situations including “indoor public settings,” the CDC said on its updated website.

The CDC, in a statement, offered various examples, saying fully vaccinated people should wear masks when, for example:

  • Visiting a barber or hair salon;
  • Visiting an uncrowded indoor shopping mall or museum;
  • Attending a small indoor gathering with a mixture of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people;
  • Going to an indoor movie theater;
  • Attending a full-capacity service at a house of worship;
  • Singing in an indoor chorus.

Fully vaccinated people should continue to avoid large indoor gatherings, the CDC said.

Reiterating its earlier guidance, the CDC also said fully vaccinated people should wear masks when gathering indoors with unvaccinated people (including children) from more than one other household, and when visiting indoors with an unvaccinated person who is at increased risk of severe illness or death from coronavirus or who lives with a person at increased risk.

Walensky highlighted the things fully vaccinated people can do indoors with masks as another step toward normal.

“Given what we know about COVID-19 vaccines and their efficacy, it is also safe for those who are fully vaccinated to return to the activities they love doing inside while wearing a mask,” Walensky said.

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“We know that masked, fully vaccinated people can safely attend worship services inside, go to an indoor restaurant or bar, and even participate in an indoor exercise class,” she said. She said the masks continued to be needed to provide “extra protection” until more people had been vaccinated and coronavirus cases had dropped further.

The announcement comes after increasing discussion among experts of the possible dropping of outdoor mask mandates.

The state of Massachusetts announced Tuesday it was loosening its outdoor mask requirement, which was one of the strictest in the country. Effective Friday, face coverings “will only be required outside in public when it is not possible to socially distance, and at other times required by sector-specific guidance,” Governor Charlie Baker’s office said. “Face coverings will still be required at all times in indoor public places.”

Dr. Paul Sax, clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said Tuesday in an e-mail he was “strongly in favor of the CDC’s relaxation of outdoor mask requirements, especially for people who have been vaccinated. We’ve known for some time that outdoor activities are much safer, and this is particularly the case for solitary actions (walking, running, biking) and those done with household members.”

He said that “the data show that the vaccines markedly reduce the risk of getting sick from COVID, and also the chances of having an asymptomatic case and spreading the virus to others.”

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“I’m still in favor of indoor mask wearing until case numbers are down further, and more of the population is vaccinated. Plus, it’s wise to wear a mask outside if you have prolonged or close contact with crowds,” said Sax, who suggested it was time to get rid of outdoor mask bans in a recent blog item in the Journal Watch section of the New England Journal of Medicine.



Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.