Here's the latest guidance from the CDC on what's safe to do once you're fully vaccinated.

As the number of people getting vaccinated continues to rise, we're learning more and more about the approved vaccine options and their effectiveness at stopping the spread of COVID-19. Today the White House COVID-19 Response Team held a live-streamed press briefing to give people relevant and important updates on vaccination efforts and updated recommendations for outdoor mask wearing. 

The main focus of the briefing was to talk about the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) updated recommendations for those who are fully vaccinated. Director of the CDC, Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, and Chief Medical Advisor, Anthony Fauci, MD, explained the updated recommendations and their rationale for them. These recommendations were as a response to over 54% of people in the US receiving at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with numbers of vaccinated Americans increasing every day. Now anywhere in America, you can receive the COVID-19 vaccine if you are over 16 years old

It is important to note that the CDC defines being "fully vaccinated" as two weeks after the second dose of a 2-dose series shot (such as Pfizer or Moderna) or two weeks after a single-dose shot (such as Johnson & Johnson). Here is a look at the updated recommendations for indoor and outdoor activities, and whether you need a mask. 

mask reccomendations
Credit: CDC

What is safe if you're outdoors

The most notable change is that people who are fully vaccinated are considered safe to do an array of outdoor activities without a mask. Here are a list of activities the CDC describes as safer for fully vaccinated people: 

  • Small outdoor gatherings with other fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people wearing masks
  • Dine outdoors without a mask 
  • General outdoor activities, like walking, running or biking, without a mask (except for certain outdoor settings such as a crowded concert or sporting event) 

If you are fully vaccinated, you can also travel within the United States without getting tested before or after travel, and without needing to self-quarantine after travel. They go on to say that people can travel internationally without getting tested beforehand, but need to show negative test results or documentation before boarding an international flight to the US. They also recommend getting tested three to five days after international travel. 

People who are not vaccinated are still advised to wear a mask and practice social distancing when outdoors. Unvaccinated people are also advised to get tested before and after travel, as well as to self-quarantine after travel or any potential exposure. 

Woman siting in garden, removing face mask
Credit: Getty Images / Westend61

What is safe if you're indoors

People who are fully vaccinated may safely attend the following indoor events with a mask: 

  • Full-capacity indoor worship services 
  • Eat in an indoor restaurant or bar
  • Take an indoor exercise classes 
  • Use public transit 
  • Visit barber shops and hair salons 

Walensky went on to clarify that the requirement for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in these instances and at crowded events is mostly to protect unvaccinated people from the rare spread of illness through vaccinated people. The CDC is still advising vaccinate people wear masks indoors when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households and to avoid large in-person gatherings.

Bottom line

Walensky referenced the several studies that found less than 10% of documented transmission has been from outdoor interactions. This along with increased vaccinations are the rationale for loosened recommendations for outdoor mask wearing in fully vaccinated individuals. "As vaccination levels continue to go up and the number of cases continue to go down, we plan to continue to update our recommendations," concluded Walensky. As always, it is important to consider your personal situation when making decisions around gathering in the time of COVID-19. For more, stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC, WHO and your local public health department as resources.