The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or physically distance while in most indoor settings.
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky during a COVID-19 briefing. “We have all longed for this moment.”
Walensky cautioned that passengers on public transport, including buses and airplanes, still need to wear masks. She said that guidance may change as the scientific evidence continues to be reviewed.
Updated guidelines posted to the CDC’s website also carve out exceptions for transportation hubs, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters—all places where the CDC says masks should still be worn.
Federal and local officials, as well as business owners, can still require mask-wearing, too.
Walensky said vaccinated people should still mask up if they develop COVID-19 symptoms that may indicate a rare breakthrough case.
The new guidance is likely to make it easier for schools and workplaces to reopen, and comes as case numbers plummet and vaccinations continue to rise.
Two weeks ago, the CDC ditched its mask mandate for vaccinated people outdoors, as long as they aren’t in a large group.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” Walensky said Thursday.
In a speech just hours after the CDC announcement, President Joe Biden called it “a great day for America.”
He praised the success of the country’s mammoth vaccination effort and thanked Americans for their sacrifices during the pandemic.
“You have all endured all this,” he said. “The American people stepped up and did what I consider to be their patriotic duty.”
Biden urged Americans who haven’t yet received a vaccine or are only partway through a two-dose vaccination to keep wearing face masks.
“Look, we’ve gotten this far,” he said. “Please protect yourself until we get to the finish line."
He also urged “patience” for vaccinated people who want to keep wearing their masks, asking that they be treated with “kindness and respect.”
“We have had too much conflict… too much politicization of this issue about wearing masks,” he said. “Let’s put it to rest and remember that we are all Americans.”