Many Americans no longer need to wear masks outside, CDC says

Woman taking off her mask to take her lunch break in the street


COVID-19 vaccine doses administered worldwide, as of today.

The New York Times

frédéric Michel/E+/Getty Images

Some bright news as the world continues on its unstoppable spin toward destruction: if you’re in the U.S. you probably don’t need to wear a mask outdoors anymore. There are stipulations, yes, and the law still varies depending upon your precise location — but we’re allowing ourselves another long sigh of relief today. A maskless one, at that.

The CDC’s new advice is clearest for those who have been fully vaccinated: No masks are needed at all unless you’re in a huge crowd of strangers. And if you’re not vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask outdoors at all when walking or exercising alone or with members of your household. You should be safe going to small outdoor gatherings of fully vaccinated people without a mask, too.

After a very long year of covering our mouths and noses any time we leave the house, the CDC’s new guidance is truly a breath of fresh air. Even so, we’ll be carrying our masks around for a while yet; the pandemic isn’t quite done wreaking havoc upon the world. And we expect it’ll remain a common courtesy to wear one in stores, restaurants, or other indoor locations for a while yet.

Keep carrying that mask — Today’s news is most exciting for fully vaccinated people, who are one step closer to never having to wear masks at all. But even the fully vaccinated among us will still need to wear masks in indoor public spaces like movie theaters and salons — the same is recommended for large outdoor gatherings like concerts where unvaccinated people are present.

Those who have yet to receive the full-dose vaccine — that’s about 71 percent of the U.S. population, as of today — are encouraged to wear masks outside when gathering with anyone else who is not vaccinated. The CDC says even unvaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask when exercising or walking alone, though.

Luckier than many — The CDC’s latest guidance is both a welcome relief from the physical burden of masking up at all times and a sign that the U.S. is well on its way to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the world is not so lucky, though, with vaccines being especially sparse in the southern hemisphere.

Vaccination efforts in most of the world are nowhere near as far along as in the U.S., and some countries, like India, are seeing way more coronavirus cases than ever before. While we can breathe easier as we lounge in the park, people in many countries are dying at alarming rates — and those with the power to lift vaccine patents are choosing not to do so. The longer the rest of the world remains unvaccinated, the more likely a mutation of COVID-19 will emerge that can overcome current vaccines, in which case we’ll have to mask up and socially distance all over again.

But for now, though, the U.S. is one step closer to living a breezy, maskless life once again. We hope it won’t be too long before the same sense of relief makes its way to other countries.