The CDC guidance, released on Thursday, stated that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a face mask or social distance – indoors and outdoors.
The change in guidance applies to anyone two weeks after they receive the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, and anyone two weeks after they receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.
However, Dr Anthony Fauci stressed in an interview with CNN on Thursday that since children are not yet eligible for the vaccine, they would need to continue donning masks when socialising.
“The children do when they are out there playing with their friends, particularly in an indoor situation, they do,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
However, Dr Fauci said he did believe the new mask guidelines were “a very important step in the direction of trying to get back to some degree of normality”.
“So, I wouldn’t want to declare victory prematurely, but I’m saying this is clearly a step in the direction that we want to go,” he said.
And CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky, explaining that children should continue to wear masks, also suggested that there may be situations in which fully vaccinated adults will continue to wear them
‘We will still ask them (children) to wear a mask because they are not vaccinated, and to protect themselves and protect others,” she told Today.
“And in fact, yes, parents, and perhaps even teachers, may want to continue wearing masks to model behaviour for them. I should also say that people may want to continue wearing masks because we’ve been wearing masks for 15 months. It is going to be hard to let go of them. We should be able to do that in our own due time.”
The CDC’s guidance will also not apply to New Yorkers, after Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state would continue with its mask mandate.
“In New York, we have always relied on the facts and the science to guide us throughout the worst of this pandemic and in our successful reopening,” Mr Cuomo said in a statement released following the CDC’s announcement.
“We have received the newly revised guidance from the CDC regarding mask wearing and social distancing for those with vaccinations and are reviewing them in consultation with Dr. Zucker and our partners and health experts in surrounding states.”
The CDC recommendations around masks also come with some caveats - the announcement on Thursday by no means a call to ditch masks entirely.
The guidance on masks applies only to fully vaccinated adults – those who have had either both shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one of the Johnson &Johnson vaccine, and are at least two weeks past their final dose.
Additionally, the guidance is not a blanket recommendation; people will still be required to wear face masks on transport (planes, trains, buses etc) regardless of vaccination status, while businesses and state rules may still require people to wear a face covering in some situations.