The CDC Just Announced That Fully-Vaccinated People Can Stop Wearing Masks In Most Settings

Here's the current outlook on when face mask requirements might get lifted — including the new CDC recs for wearing masks outdoors.

Face masks have become a regular part of life during (and likely after) the COVID-19 pandemic, and it's become pretty clear that many people don't love wearing them. Whether you find covering your face NBD, mildly annoying, or downright insufferable, at this point in the pandemic you might be wondering, "when can we stop wearing masks?" And, hey, now that millions of Americans have been vaccinated against the virus, it's a natural question to have.

The answer? It depends on two factors: your vaccination status and the setting.

On Thursday, May, 13 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced updated guidelines on mask use for fully vaccinated Americans; this comes just two weeks after the organization announced that fully vaccinated people could forgo masks outdoors. The new public health recommendations state that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks (when outdoors or indoors) or practice social distancing — with a few exceptions. Fully vaccinated people still need to wear a mask where it's required by laws, rules, or regulations, such as in business establishments where masks are needed to enter. They should also continue to wear masks in homeless shelters, correctional facilities, or when taking public transportation, according to the updated guidelines.

"Today is a great day for America and our long battle with the coronavirus," President Joe Biden said during an address on the topic from the White House's Rose Garden. "Just a few hours ago the Centers for Disease Control, the CDC, announced that they are no longer recommending that fully vaccinated people need wear masks. This recommendation holds true whether you are inside or outside. I think it's a great milestone, a great day."

So, if it's been two weeks since receiving your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or your single dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine (which is no longer on "pause," BTW), you can officially forgo a face covering.

CDC Face Mask Guidance
Centers for Disease Control

Locations with high rates or places such as nursing homes, clinics, airports, or schools will likely continue to require masks for "quite some time," says Kathleen Jordan, M.D., internal medicine doctor, infectious disease specialist, and senior vice president of medical affairs at Tia.

Some states had already started scaling back on mask mandates before the CDC's latest announcement. To date, at least 14 states have already lifted (read: ended) their respective statewide mask orders, according to AARP.Even in the absence of a statewide order, however, local jurisdictions may opt to keep a mask mandate in place or businesses may require customers to wear face coverings to enter.

When Can We Stop Wearing Masks? , Rear view of a woman standing outdoors removing her face mask, Spain
Getty Images

People have become more laid-back about wearing masks in general in recent months, according to Erika Schwartz, M.D., an internist who specializes in disease prevention. "While there will be gradual removal of mask mandates as more of the country gets fully vaccinated, people are already moving in the direction of removing masks and becoming more lax about their usage," says Dr. Schwartz. "The weather warming up, the number of vaccinated people increasing, and the COVID exhaustion are all contributors to the change in attitudes towards masks." (

Back in February, Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that "it is possible" that Americans will have to wear face masks into 2022, according to CNN. He also predicted that the U.S. will return to a "significant degree of normality" by the end of the year.

Around the same time, President Joe Biden said that that restriction could ease up by the end of this year, provided that the vaccine rollout helps the U.S. achieve herd immunity. (Most experts say that 70 to 80 percent of the population would need to get vaccinated to reach herd immunity, Purvi Parikh, M.D., previously told Shape.)

"A year from now, I think that there'll be significantly fewer people having to be socially distanced, having to wear a mask," President Biden said during CNN's Town Hall in February. He stressed that in the meantime, however, it's still important to wear masks and take other precautions such as washing your hands and socially distancing. (

Since then, vaccination numbers have increased and the ever-important question of "when can we stop wearing masks?" has continued to be the topic of many conversations. Throughout the pandemic, experts have generally refrained from giving a definitive timeline of when everyone can return to mask-free living, as the coronavirus situation is constantly evolving. With the CDC's latest update, the U.S. has finally taken a major step in rolling back mask guidelines, but that could change again as the pandemic continues to evolve. For now, feel free to skip a mask if you're fully vaccinated and aren't skirting any local rules by doing so.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. As updates about coronavirus COVID-19 continue to evolve, it's possible that some information and recommendations in this story have changed since initial publication. We encourage you to check in regularly with resources such as the CDC, the WHO, and your local public health department for the most up-to-date data and recommendations.

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