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Vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks or socially distance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.
The highly-anticipated change in guidance was made by CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky, who said emotionally: “We have all longed for this moment.”
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” she added.
“If you are fully vaccinated you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.
“We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”
Dr Walensky said that the new guidance only applied to those Americans who were fully vaccinated, and asked anyone who was immunocompromised to talk to their doctor before giving up their mask.
Fully vaccinated people are those people who are two weeks past their last required Covid-19 vaccine dose.
She then said that the change in guidance was not meant as an incentive to get more people vaccinated and that the CDC had “followed the science” in making its decision.
Dr Walensky said that the decision was also not based on public pressure but the effectiveness of the vaccine.
She added that the guidance had not changed on mask-wearing on planes, buses or trains and that masks still have to be worn while travelling and at airports and stations.
And she also confirmed that locations such as healthcare facilities would continue to follow their own infection safety guidelines.
“This an exciting and powerful moment. It could only happen because of the work of so many who made sure that we had the rapid administration of three safe and effective vaccines,” she said.
Dr Walensky also told unvaccinated Americans that they had to continue to wear their masks, and urged them to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
The updated advice comes two weeks after the CDC recommended that fully vaccinated people continued to wear masks at all indoor settings, and outdoor at crowded situations like concerts and sporting events.
But she warned that if the situation became worse again, the CDC may have to change its guidelines.
More than 32.8m people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the United States during the pandemic, with 583,000 deaths caused by it.
The CDC director also said that the government was releasing $7.4bn to “hire, train and support public health workers across the country”.
She said that $4.4bn would go to hiring tens of thousands of public health workers in public health departments, and $3bn would be spent on prepare for future pandemics.