CDC to ease indoor COVID-19 mask requirements for fully vaccinated people

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday will ease indoor mask-wearing guidance for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in many public settings, according to a person briefed on the announcement.

The new guidance will be released later in the day on Thursday but the Associated Press confirmed the guidance will no longer recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks outdoors in crowds. The announcement comes as the CDC and the Biden administration have faced pressure to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated people — people who are two weeks past their last required COVID-19 vaccine dose — in part to highlight the benefits of getting the shot.

The guidance expected to be issued later in the day on Thursday will ease restrictions for reopening workplaces and schools. Earlier this week, Michigan crossed the first threshold in the state's plan to get more people vaccinated and lift restrictions. The first threshold (55% of residents 16 and up with one dose of the vaccine) will allow people to return to in-office work two weeks after it passed. That date is currently set for May 24.

Where masks should still be worn

The guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings:

  • Buses
  • Planes
  • Hospitals
  • Prisons
  • Homeless shelters

Just two weeks ago, the CDC recommended that fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks indoors in all settings and outdoors in large crowds.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the announcement ahead of the official release. The White House did not comment on the matter.

READ MORE: Can your employer require you to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, was set to announce the new guidance on Thursday afternoon at a White House briefing.  

More COVID-19 vaccines needed

During a virtual meeting Tuesday on vaccinations with a bipartisan group of governors, President Joe Biden appeared to acknowledge that his administration had to do more to model the benefits of vaccination.

"I would like to say that we have fully vaccinated people; we should start acting like it," Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, told Biden. "And that's a big motivation get the unvaccinated to want to get vaccinated."

"Good point," Biden responded. He added, "we're going to be moving on that in the next little bit."

Evidence from the U.S. and Israel shows the vaccines are as strongly protective in real-world use as they were in earlier studies, and that so far they continue to work even though some worrying mutated versions of the virus are spreading.

The more people continue to get vaccinated, the faster infections will drop -- and the harder it will be for the virus to mutate enough to escape vaccines.

And while some people still get COVID-19 despite vaccination those infections tend to be milder, shorter and harder to spread to others.