In the biggest indication that the United States is fast returning to pre-pandemic life, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said fully vaccinated people are no longer required to wear masks. The recommendation holds true for both indoors and outdoors, the CDC said.
Following the announcement on Thursday, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris appeared before reporters at the Rose Garden of the White House without wearing masks. "I think it's a great milestone. A great day. It's been made possible by the extraordinary success we've had in vaccinating so many Americans so quickly," Biden said.
Referring to the latest CDC guidelines, Biden said fully vaccinated people are at a very, very low risk of contracting COVID-19. Therefore, if you've been fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask. But if you've not been vaccinated, or if you've been getting a two-shot vaccine and you've only had your first shot but not your second, or you haven't waited the full two weeks after your second shot, you still need to wear a mask," the President said.
He said 250 million vaccine shots have been given in 114 days. "We are seeing the results. Cases are down in 49 of 50 states. New York Times has reported that hospitalisations are the lowest they've been since April of 2020, over a year ago, right after the start of the pandemic. Deaths are down 80 per cent and also at their lowest level since April of 2020," Biden said.
He said that the virus tragically rages in other countries. "In less than four months, we've gone from 5.5 per cent to nearly 60 per cent of the adults in America with at least one shot in their arm. We've gone from stagnation to an economy that is growing faster than it has in nearly 40 years. We've gone from an anemic job creation, to a record for job creation for a new administration," Biden added.
In its latest guidelines, the CDC said fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
Those travelling within the United States need not get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel. The CDC said the vaccines are effective at preventing the COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness and death. The vaccines reduce the risk of people spreading COVID-19, it said.
The guidance applies to COVID-19 vaccines currently authorised for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson (J&J)/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines.
It can also be applied to COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorised for emergency use by the World Health Organization. This includes AstraZeneca/Oxford, the CDC said.