The new guidelines are a sign of increasing freedoms that come with vaccination. “The more people who are vaccinated, the more steps we can take towards spending time with people we love doing the things we love to enjoy,” Walensky says.
The CDC has published an infographic that assigns a risk level to various activities for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and indicates when each group should wear a mask and take other precautions (PDF).
Masks are only required outdoors at crowded events, where there may be many unvaccinated people, according to Walensky. If you’re not yet vaccinated, such a crowded gathering would be considered one of the least safe situations to be in, even if you are wearing a mask, according to the guidance.
In March, the CDC said that it was safe for fully vaccinated people to gather indoors without a mask with a small group of other fully vaccinated people, or with unvaccinated people from a single household, provided the unvaccinated individuals are at low risk for complications from COVID-19.
Otherwise, the CDC still recommends everyone wear a mask indoors. There too, vaccinated people have more options. Data has shown that vaccinated people who wear a mask can feel safe engaging in a number of indoor activities—such as going to the movies, attending a worship service, or participating in a high intensity exercise class—that would be riskier for unvaccinated people.
As more people get vaccinated and coronavirus cases go down, CDC will be able to further update guidance on where masks are and aren’t needed, according to Walensky.