Fully vaccinated? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that you can now drop the mask outdoors and in most indoor situations. The updated guidance was issued on May 13. “Fully vaccinated” applies to those who are at least two weeks post-receipt of the final shot in the course of their vaccination (two shots for Moderna and Pfizer; one shot for J&J Janssen). Those who are vaccinated but also have conditions that compromise their immune system, such as those undergoing cancer treatment, are recommended to continue masking when social distancing is not practical.
If you’ve been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC:
- You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
- If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
- You need to pay close attention to the situation at your international destination before traveling outside the United States.
- You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it.
- You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID before boarding an international flight to the United States.
- You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel.
- You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
- If you’ve been around someone who has COVID, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
- However, if you live or work in a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter and are around someone who has COVID, you should still get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.
For now, if you’ve been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC:
- You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace and local businesses.
- If you travel, you should still take steps to protect yourself and others. You will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the U.S., and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. President Joe Biden extended his executive order for wearing masks on public transportation (including air) through at least September 13, 2021.
- You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
- People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken the immune system should talk to their healthcare provider to discuss their activities.
Whether this is welcomed or anxiety-inducing news, one thing is for sure: The new CDC guidelines are raising a lot of questions for individuals and businesses alike. When the updates were announced, retailers such as Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, and Walmart said that they would be dropping the mask requirement in their stores where the state or local regulations allow for it. Other retailers like Home Depot, Kroger, and Macy’s said they would continue to monitor the situation before relaxing their masking policies.
Remember that your state and local mandates apply and supersede the CDC guidance. For example, our own state of New Jersey will eliminate the outdoor mask requirement, but has kept the indoor mask requirement for the time being. Meanwhile, neighboring states New York and Pennsylvania are opting to follow the updated CDC guidance and will relax the mask mandate indoors as early as May 19. Cities and municipalities may also have their own requirements that should be followed. Be sure to check and continue to follow your local rules.