What is the new guidance for wearing masks outdoors, particularly if we are vaccinated?

Masks Staying Safe Vaccines

A: Vaccinated people in the United States (US) only need to wear a mask outdoors in crowded settings (think sporting events, parades, and concerts).

In other words, being vaccinated means you can get back to nearly normal outdoor activities just as the weather is warming up! Yeah!!

TL;DR The new guidelines for mask use in outdoor settings from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are as follows.

*Vaccinated people* DO NOT need to wear a mask outdoors when:

-attending small, outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated or a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated family or friends, or
-dining at outdoor restaurants with friends from multiple households.

But masks (as well as distancing) are STILL recommended for *unvaccinated people* when:

-attending small, outdoor gatherings with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated or only unvaccinated family or friends, as well as
-dining at outdoor restaurants with friends from multiple households.

Both *vaccinated and unvaccinated people* are also STILL advised to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings. One reason for this, is that it’s hard to know whether those around you are vaccinated. A second reason, is that greater density of people and difficulty maintaining distance from others can increase risk of transmission.

NEITHER *vaccinated or unvaccinated people* need to wear masks when:

-exercising alone or hanging out with people in their own household outdoors, or
-attending small, outdoor gatherings with only FULLY vaccinated family or friends.

Why was guidance on this updated?

More and more evidence points to the fact that vaccinated individuals not only have strong protection against COVID-19 but also are far less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others (see our recent post on this here). As a result, CDC is continuing to update their guidelines regarding what vaccinated people can safely do. Previously, they released guidance for vaccinated people about getting together with others indoors, primarily in private household settings (see our post on this here). Now CDC is expanding this guidance to cover what vaccinated people can safely do outdoors in more public settings.

When do we think it will be okay for *everyone* to stop wearing masks in outdoor settings?

While risk of getting COVID-19 is lower in outdoors settings, it is still not zero (see our previous post on this here). That said, as more and more people are fully vaccinated, vaccines become available for children age <16 years old and cases of COVID-19 continue to decline, recommendations for mask use will likely be further relaxed. If in the meantime, navigating outdoor interactions in a mixed vaccine status world (especially with kids!) feels overwhelming, we recommend following the simple “2-out-of-3 rule” (see the graphic by our Nerdy Friends, SciMoms below!).

With this rule, you just need to make sure you meet 2 of 3 conditions; being outdoors, distanced and/or masked.

Outdoors + Distance = No Mask is OK
Outdoors + Mask = No Distance is OK
Indoors = Mask + Distance Needed (ideally with good ventilation too)

BOTTOM LINE: If you can’t distance from others who aren’t (or might not be) vaccinated, then wear a mask outdoors. If you are distanced from others outdoors, it’s okay to shed the mask. Of course, make sure to still follow any state or local mask mandates.

We Nerdy Girls celebrate with those who are fully vaccinated and can start to enjoy going unmasked in most outdoor settings!! We will also be here to help you all navigate the ever-changing new normal of the #pandexit as guidance on masks continues to evolve.

For more information on differences in the guidelines for vaccinated versus unvaccinated individuals, see here.

Or here.

For a summary of the new guidelines, see here.

Or here.

For more discussion on the “2-out-of-3” rule by Nerdy Girl in-Spirit, Dr. Lindsay Marr, see here.

Or by our Nerdy Friends, SciMoms, see here.

Link to original FB post