New York Daily News: MANHATTAN, NY – Get the vax and drop the mask.
Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear face masks outdoors unless they’re in large crowds with strangers, according to new public health guidance rolled out Tuesday by the Biden administration and quickly adopted by most states, including New York.
President Biden said the relaxed guidance reflects the “stunning” success of his administration’s campaign to vaccinate the US out of the coronavirus pandemic. He also touted the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines as prime incentive for those still on the fence about getting vaccinated.
“This is another great reason to go get vaccinated — now, now,” Biden said in a speech on the White House North Lawn, envisioning Americans enjoying mask-free picnics and park gatherings in coming weeks.
Under the updated CDC guidance, fully vaccinated individuals — who are defined as those who have gone at least 14 days since receiving their final shot — can exercise, walk, bike, attend small gatherings outside and dine and drink at outdoor restaurants and bars without wearing masks.
Vaccinated individuals can unmask even in instances where they’re socializing in small groups with people who aren’t yet fully immunized, the guidance says.
Masks should still be worn indoors and while attending large-scale outdoor events, like concerts, parades and sports games, regardless of vaccination status, according to the CDC.
The recommendations were announced earlier in the day by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, which for the better part of the past year recommended universal mask-wearing in nearly all public settings as COVID-19 claimed more than 570,000 lives in the US.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Walensky said the mask modifications were a product of surging vaccination numbers, plummeting COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death rates as well as research showing that less than 10% of virus transmission occurs outdoors.
“Today, I hope, is a day when we can take another step back to the normalcy of before,” Walensky said.
According to CDC data, more than 215 million shots have been injected across the U.S. since Biden took office.
Two-thirds of American seniors, who are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, and rates are steadily ticking up among other demographics as well.
Gov. Cuomo, speaking at an outdoor event later in upstate Johnson City, near Binghamton, said the CDC guidance would take effect immediately statewide in New York.
“That is liberating, especially now that the weather is getting warmer,” he said.
Still, Cuomo cautioned that New York isn’t completely out of the pandemic woods yet.
“Twenty-six people died yesterday from COVID, so there’s a nuance to the message. We’re making progress. People are getting vaccinated, positivity is coming down, but COVID is still dangerous,” he said. “So remember this is still a serious threat.”
Walensky echoed that sentiment, saying that continued mask usage in indoor and large-scale outdoor settings will protect both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
“Until more people are vaccinated and while we still have more than 50,000 cases a day, mask use indoors will provide extra protection,” she said.
Nonetheless, the new guidelines even give some reprieve to un-vaccinated individuals, saying they can skip masks while exercising outside with members of their households and attending small outdoor gatherings with family and friends.
Mayor de Blasio suggested he’d like New Yorkers to continue to err on the side of mask caution.
“The federal government is saying you don’t have to. I think a lot of people will still choose to — or at least a lot of the time — will choose to,” he said in a briefing from City Hall. “I expect a lot of the time, I will, for sure.”
While the science supports the CDC’s move, de Blasio health adviser Jay Varma also said the Big Apple is unique among American cities when it comes to population density and suggested that should be taken into account.
“Our environment is very different than most parts of the United States, where people drive in cars and they’re not walking on a crowded, busy street around other people,” Varma said. “So we also have to factor in things like norms, politeness, getting people habituated.”