Fully vaccinated Americans can safely enjoy more outdoor activities maskless, CDC says

Fully vaccinated Americans can safely enjoy more activities maskless, such as running outside or attending small outdoor gatherings, according to updated guidelines announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CBS News reporter Alex Tin joins "Red and Blue" anchor Elaine Quijano with details.

Video Transcript

ELAINE QUIJANO: The CDC says fully vaccinated Americans can start to safely enjoy some activities without wearing a mask. The agency unveiled updated coronavirus guidelines Tuesday. It listed activities you can now safely resume without a mask, like running outside or attending a small outdoor gathering. The director of the CDC says she hopes the news will encourage more people to get the shot.

ROCHELLE WALLENSKY: The examples today show that when you are fully vaccinated, you can return to many activities safely and most of them outdoors and unmasked and begin to get back to normal. And the more people who are vaccinated, the more steps we can take toward spending time with people we love doing the things we love to enjoy.

I hope this message is encouraging for you. It shows just how powerful these vaccines are in our efforts to end this pandemic and why we are asking everyone to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated.

ELAINE QUIJANO: However, the CDC is urging people to continue wearing masks in most indoor settings or crowded places. But it's not just the federal government urging people to get their shots. Some states are getting creative too. On Monday, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announced that 16 to 35-year-olds will be given $100 in savings bonds if they get vaccinated.

The state says it plans to use federal funds from the CARES Act to pay for the incentive. For more, let's bring in CBS News Reporter Alex Tin who has been covering the nation's pandemic response. Hi there, Alex. Good to see you again. So first, what are the details of these new guidelines? And to whom do they apply?

ALEX TIN: Well, thanks, Elaine. You know, it's interesting. When you look at these guidelines, it's almost harder to find people that wouldn't be applied in some way to these guidelines. There is a big blanket recommendation at the top in these new guidelines that recognizes a growing body of science we've seen for a while now that outdoor transmission of COVID-19 is just really rare.

I've seen some studies that estimate that it's somewhere between 10% or less of cases are caught of COVID-19 outside. And so both unvaccinated and vaccinated people can run outside, can bike outside-- the CDC says in this new guidance-- as long as they're in a small group or alone with people in their household while they're running and biking and probably can do it safely and probably aren't at risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.

Now, that picture changes when you increase what they call their gradient of risk. And again, you can go on the CDC website and see that gradient of risk all the way down to things where only fully vaccinated people should be not wearing masks, like in outdoor dining all the way down to concerts and stadium events where everyone should be wearing masks. At least, that's according to the CDC guidelines.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Yeah, I went. And I took a look at that graphic. And it is interesting to see the different sort of gradations of what the government is looking at with respect to activities it deems more safe than others. But let me ask you about vaccination rates because they are slowing down in the US, Alex. And I wonder why that is and which states are seeing the biggest spikes and dips in case numbers.

ALEX TIN: Well, you know, there really is no easy answer to why vaccinations are slowing down. And it's a really complicated factor when you talk to state and local health officials because they'll give you any range of responses. When you look at the list of both states that are administering smaller percentages of their first doses delivered-- that means they've gotten a shipment from the federal government of COVID-19 vaccine. And of that shipment, a smaller and smaller portion, they've been able to quickly administer out to people living in their states.

And it really runs the gamut. You have states like Alaska which are among the states with that largest share of unused vaccine right now, but also has vaccinated probably the largest share of their population according to figures tabulated by Johns Hopkins University of any state in the country. And it's to the point where I read a story this morning that the Alaska governor has been vaccinating or has been inviting Canadians to come visit their state and get the vaccine there too.

So that all the way down to other states, like Alabama, which is the second smallest share of its population vaccinated. They also have a large surplus of vaccine. And when you hear from local and state health officials when they've been asked about it, they'll say anything from hesitancy, which is a real problem-- and states are trying to address it-- all the way down to the fact that there are just some people who maybe they're not hesitant to get to the vaccine.

But they tell health officials, look, I'm not going to change my plans and come on a Tuesday afternoon. How about I come next weekend? And so there's a wide diversity of issues here. And they're trying to tackle all of that.

ELAINE QUIJANO: I also want to ask you, Alex, about what we've been seeing out of India. I mean, some of these reports are really just heartbreaking to see this crisis that has really gripped this nation. So now, India is reporting over 300,000 new coronavirus cases. On Tuesday alone, the Biden administration is offering AstraZeneca vaccinations which have not even been approved in the US. But Alex, what else is the United States planning to do to help?

ALEX TIN: Yeah, well, it's an interesting situation. You mentioned the AstraZeneca vaccines in addition to the potential donation of doses that have been manufactured here. And again, this hasn't been confirmed. They're still waiting for the FDA to finish checking these doses to make sure that they are safe to be donated or loaned, I should say, or shared, I should say, with these other countries.

In addition to those doses, they're also offering personal protective equipment, equipment that could help protect them-- personal-- I'm sorry-- equipment that could also help them make new vaccines. AstraZeneca relies on a plant in India to make a large share of its doses that are distributed throughout the world through the World Health Organization and in addition, putting aside vaccines, putting aside therapeutics and medicines and PPE and all these other things that they've offered.

They're also sending what they say is a CDC Strikeforce. I think that's how they called it at a White House COVID-19 briefing today. And between all of these personnel and equipment, they're obviously hoping they can at least help curb the spread of COVID-19 in that country and potentially reduce the risk of, you know, dangerous new variants that could emerge through these waves.

The B1617 variant-- that's one of those feared variants that has certain mutations that have scientists concerned could be potentially more transmissible and more fatal. Those are the kinds of things that they're really focusing on at least from a selfish point of view here in the United States, let alone the global health picture.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Right, because we know that obviously, this is a global pandemic. And we're very much connected to each other in that sense. So last week, Alex, we reported that the CDC published the findings of a study that found no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine poses any serious risks during pregnancy. Well, the agency seems to be walking back comments made by Director Rochelle Wallensky after she recommended pregnant women get vaccinated. So Alex, what happened there?

ALEX TIN: Yeah, well, I mean, it's a really interesting situation. And there's a great write-up action on our website right now by Kate Smith, one of our colleagues that really got that first statement from the CDC spokesperson, because when you look on the CDC website, when you look on the FDA website, when you look at all the documentation around how these vaccines were granted emergency use authorization and then recommendations and how they can be used by the CDC.

All of this documentation-- all of this paperwork says the same thing that getting vaccinated if you're pregnant is a personal choice. It doesn't recommend that you get vaccinated. It lays out the fact that we still have limited data around the safety that it seems to be probably safe.

Dr. Wallensky had referenced that CDC study that came out last week that looked at some of this early data that, again, suggest that these vaccines probably are safe and probably have similar side effects to those in women who are not pregnant.

But between all of that, there still hasn't been an official change to that recommendation that getting vaccinated while you're pregnant is a personal choice. There's a lot of data now-- a growing amount of data that suggests it's probably safe. And the side effects are probably no different than if you're not pregnant. But that official recommendation hasn't changed. And you heard that from a CDC spokesperson today.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Yeah, I mean, we've heard just anecdotally how this is a main concern for women who are pregnant or of childbearing age, even, as the effect that the vaccine may have on them. Alex Tin for us. Alex, thank you so much-- really appreciate it.

ALEX TIN: Thanks for having me on.