“Go get the shot,” President Biden declared Tuesday, hailing an easing of federal guidance on outdoor mask wearing as a step toward post-pandemic normalcy.
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Roni Caryn Rabin
WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a major step on Tuesday toward coaxing Americans into a post-pandemic world, relaxing the rules on mask wearing outdoors as coronavirus cases recede and people increasingly chafe against restrictions.
The mask guidance is modest and carefully written: Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus no longer need to wear a mask outdoors while walking, running, hiking or biking alone, or when in small gatherings, including with members of their own households. Masks are still necessary in crowded outdoor venues like sports stadiums, the C.D.C. said.
But President Biden hailed it as a landmark moment in the pandemic, wearing a mask as he approached the lectern on a warm spring day on the White House grounds — and pointedly keeping it off as he walked back into the White House when he was done.
“Go get the shot. It’s never been easier,” Mr. Biden said. “And once you’re fully vaccinated, you can go without a mask when you’re outside and away from big crowds.”
The C.D.C. stopped short of telling even fully vaccinated people that they could shed their masks outdoors altogether — citing the worrying risk that remains for transmitting the coronavirus, unknown vaccination levels among people in crowds and the still-high caseloads in some regions of the country. The guidance also cautioned even vaccinated people against going without masks in medium-size outdoor gatherings.
But even the C.D.C.’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, emphasized a more expansive interpretation, telling reporters at a White House briefing, “We no longer feel that the vaccinated people require masks outdoors,” outside “large public venues, such as concerts, stadiums and things like that.”
The order had immediate ripple effects in the states. Governors in California, New York, Louisiana, Maine and Massachusetts all relaxed outdoor mask mandates after the C.D.C.’s announcement. In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, went much further, ignoring the federal government’s advice as he declared it was “time for celebrations and weddings and conventions and concerts and parades and proms” to take place “without limits on gathering sizes.”
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