The CDC on Thursday announced that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing when indoors or outdoors, whether in groups large or small.
The CDC said fully vaccinated people should still wear masks on airplanes, in hospitals and in businesses that require them, however, and immunocompromised people should check with their doctor before doing away with masks and social distancing.
The change in guidance follows reports that show the efficacy of current COVID-19 vaccines in real-world settings, which also show the vaccines are effective against the many COVID-19 variants, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during a White House press briefing Thursday.
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing. If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” Walensky said. “We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”
The change in guidance is a major shift toward a more fully reopened society, but vaccinations in Alabama and many other states have begun dropping off. Public health officials say those who wanted vaccinations have gotten them, and those remaining are hesitant to do so, especially younger people.
Alabama and Mississippi have the worst COVID-19 vaccination rates of any states in the U.S., according to data collected by The New York Times. The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Alabama per day, on average, has declined by 67 percent between April 13 and May 13.
Alabama on Thursday opened the Pfizer vaccine to those aged 12 to 15, an important step in getting younger people vaccinated, which health experts say is critical to safely reopen schools next year and preventing outbreaks in homes and communities.