The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxed its guidance for wearing masks to control the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday, detailing a list of activities fully vaccinated people can do mask-free. More than a year into pandemic life, with vaccinations having reached a significant chunk of the population, the public-health agency responded to a desire for an off-ramp back to normal with the new guidelines. While still noting both vaccinated and unvaccinated people should mask up while indoors—and especially at potentially crowded locations like churches, shopping malls, and other venues like salons and barber shops—some outdoor activities and venues were deemed safe for the fully vaccinated to ditch their face coverings. Those included walks, hikes, bike rides, visits to restaurants, and small gatherings—even those with some unvaccinated people—outside.
Still, the agency said, even fully vaccinated people should continue to mask up at potentially dangerous mass gatherings outdoors like live sporting events and concerts. While not binding on states or localities with mask mandates, the rules were likely to have a ripple effect nationwide. Of course, the states and politicians that experts say prematurely ditched mask mandates entirely—drawing ire from President Joe Biden on down—even as the pandemic rages may not be paying all that much attention anymore.