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Dr Anthony Fauci has officially cleared the way for anybody who is vaccinated to be without a mask or face covering when outdoors.
“If you are vaccinated you don’t have to wear a mask outside,” president Biden’s chief medical adviser told CBS, adding that masks are needed outdoors only in an “unusual situation”.
“If you are going into a completely crowded situation, where people are essentially falling all over each other, then you wear a mask. But at any other time, if you are vaccinated and you are outside, put aside your mask.”
The assurance from the US’ top infectious diseases expert follows a relaxation in federal guidelines for mask wearing outdoors almost two weeks ago.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asks individuals to wear a mask when outdoors if they are not vaccinated, and for all to wear face coverings in crowded outdoor settings.
For indoors situations, the CDC continues to ask all Americans to wear a face covering.
Announcing the relaxation in April, CDC director Dr Rochelle Lewinsky said of the relaxation that in most circumstances, "for vaccinated people, outdoor activities without a mask are safe. However, we continue to recommend masking in crowded outdoor settings and venues.”
Republicans, many of whom are critical of outdoor mask wearing, on Wednesday accused Dr Lewinsky and the CDC of “exaggerating the risks of outdoor transmission”, although officials say the recommendations are evidenced-based.
Dr Fauci’s comments on Thursday came after CBS anchor Gayle King asked why she and others “felt guilty” for not wearing a mask outside, despite the new recommendations from the CDC.
To date, the US has administered more than 153 million doses of a vaccine, with 117 million fully vaccinated from Covid.