Inside mask wearing in question
Zoe Meroney buys clothing from Christopher Castaneda at the Designer Sample Store in Santa Monica on May 4. New CDC guidelines say vaccinated people can stop wearing masks in most places. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Pandemic Life

Most mask guidelines for vaccinated are lifted in milestone moment in coronavirus battle

People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks in most places, the CDC suggested. But in California, it may be a week or more before changes would be considered locally.

Federal officials on Thursday announced a sweeping relaxation of face mask guidelines, including allowing fully vaccinated people to safely stop wearing masks n most places.

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things you have stopped doing since the start of the pandemic.”

The decision was made based on numerous reports and literature that have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, Walensky said, adding: “We have all longed for this moment when can get back to some sense of normalcy.”

The announcement came amid mounting public pressure nationwide and in California, where nearly 50% of the population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and coronavirus case rates have dropped dramatically. Earlier this month, the state recorded its lowest hospitalization rate since the first few weeks of the pandemic.

The CDC and the Biden administration faced pressure to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated people — people who are two weeks past their last required vaccine dose — in part to highlight the benefits of getting the shot.

Walensky noted that people with compromised immune systems should speak to their doctors before giving up their masks.

“If things get worse, there is always a chance we may need to make changes to these recommendations,” Walensky said, “but we know that the more people are vaccinated, the less cases we will have and the less chance of a new spike or additional variant emerging.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.