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CDC: Vaccinated people can exercise, gather in small groups outside without masks

RN Bryan Phan administers a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to a client on March 31, 2021 in Lakewood, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times/TNS)
April 27, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its public health guidelines for COVID-19 Tuesday, saying individuals who are fully vaccinated can exercise and gather in small groups outdoors without wearing a face mask.

According to the CDC, a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving his or her second shot.

Eating at a restaurant outdoors with friends from several different households is also considered safe, the CDC said.

The government agency still advises fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in indoor spaces with unvaccinated people from multiple households and to “avoid indoor large-sized in-person gatherings” altogether.

“In public spaces, the vaccination status of other people or whether they are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 is likely unknown,” the CDC wrote in its guidance. “Therefore, fully vaccinated people should continue to follow guidance to protect themselves and others, including wearing a well-fitted mask, when indoors or in an outdoor setting or venue where masks are required.”

“CDC cannot provide the specific risk level for every activity in every community, so It is important to consider your own personal situation and the risk to you, your family, and your community before venturing out without a mask,” the agency added.

The updated guidance comes as more than 140 million Americans, or nearly 43 percent of the population, have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, CDC data shows. Nearly 96 million Americans, or 28.9 percent of the population, have received a second dose and are considered fully vaccinated by the CDC.

Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday that officials should relax their guidelines “to allow more gatherings outside, allow more large groups, allow sporting events, things of that nature.”

“The weather is warming up. We have the opportunity to bring more activities outside. We know activities outside are lower risk than things done indoors,” Gottlieb told Squawk Box, noting that vaccinations are driving down new infections.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, said that he supports the new guidance, particularly as more research is indicating COVID-19 infections usually don’t happen outdoors.

“It’s been over a year. We have a very good understanding of who gets infected and how they get infected,” he told CNBC. “I think it’s fair to say you don’t need to wear a mask outside unless you can’t maintain 2 meters or 6 feet of social distancing.”