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CDC says fully vaccinated people can go maskless in most places

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People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer have to wear masks indoors or outdoors in most settings, the CDC said. Nancy Cordes has more.

Video Transcript

NORAH O'DONNELL: Good evening, and thank you for joining us. We are going to begin with breaking news and good news. It's a watershed moment in the coronavirus pandemic and a sign that life is rapidly returning to normal. Tonight, the Centers for Disease Control says Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks or maintain social distance in almost all situations, whether they're outside or inside.

Simply put, President Biden says vaccinated Americans have earned the right to greet each other with a smile. Tonight, about one in every three Americans is now fully vaccinated. And the White House hopes that these newly relaxed restrictions will encourage those who haven't gotten their shots to do so.

Still, there are some caveats. The CDC director says people who are not fully vaccinated should keep wearing masks indoors and that everyone will need to wear them at certain times, including while traveling. And while health officials say this does not mean the pandemic is over, they admit the psychological impact of unmasking is likely to be dramatic and positive for many Americans, myself included.

Well, tonight news comes with lots of questions. So we have CBS's is Dr. John LaPook standing by. But first, CBS's Nancy Cordes is going to lead off our coverage from the White House. Good evening, Nancy.

NANCY CORDES: Good evening, Norah. The president called this a major milestone. And it comes amid mounting evidence that fully vaccinated Americans are highly unlikely to spread the virus, even indoors or in large crowds. And so therefore, they can stop wearing these, and they can stop social distancing.

JOE BIDEN: This recommendation holds true whether you are inside or outside.

NANCY CORDES: President Biden hailed the new development in the Rose Garden.

JOE BIDEN: And you can shake hands and even give each other a hug.

NANCY CORDES: As the first lady celebrated with a newly maskless crowd in West Virginia.

JILL BIDEN: We just learned that as we got off the plane and here I had gone out to buy one that was coordinated with my outfit, so.

NANCY CORDES: The CDC says the updated guidance is based on new data about the powerful protection the shots provide. With nearly half of US adults now fully vaccinated, new daily cases in the US have dropped by 1/3 just in the past two weeks, the lowest rate since last September. The Cleveland Clinic found that 99% of hospital admissions for COVID-19 this year involved people who were not fully vaccinated. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: Now, if you are immune compromised, you will most definitely want to talk to your doctor before giving up your mask.

NANCY CORDES: For many Americans, donning a mask has become as automatic as putting on shoes. States and cities first began mandating masks more than a year ago.

- As of midnight tonight, it will be a requirement.

NANCY CORDES: There are some exceptions to the new guidelines-- everyone will still have to mask up in health care settings and on planes, buses, and other forms of public transportation. Some local businesses and workplaces may still require masks too.

JOE BIDEN: Good to see you again

NANCY CORDES: But at this workplace, the changes were immediate. A meeting that began with masks ended without them after the new guidelines were announced halfway through.

SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO: We heard all about it. The president took his off too, yeah.

NORAH O'DONNELL: And Nancy Cordes is back with us. So, Nancy, is there any plan for people to be required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated so they can take off the mask?

NANCY CORDES: There is no such plan, Norah. And the President essentially acknowledged today there will not be an enforcement mechanism. This is all going to have to operate on the honor system. And the hope is that this will incentivize people who haven't been vaccinated to go ahead and get their shots. And that until they are fully vaccinated, that they continue to wear these both for their own safety and for the safety of those around them.

NORAH O'DONNELL: All right. Nancy Cordes, thank you.