Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks during bike rides, runs, small outdoor gatherings with friends, or dining outdoors at restaurants.
Though the agency still recommends mask wearing in large outdoor gatherings, such as sports games and concerts, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, said data are clear that being outside poses little threat to fully vaccinated people, meaning those who are 14 days out from their Johnson & Johnson vaccine or received their second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine 14 or more days ago.
"Most of transmission is happening indoors than outdoors," Walensky said, explaining that less than 10% of documented COVID-19 transmission has occurred outside.
Unvaccinated Americans may also now safely resume exercising outdoors without a mask, the CDC said, and socialize with fully vaccinated friends and family members in small outdoor gatherings.
"Today is another day we can take a step back to [the] normalcy of before," Walensky said during a White House press briefing on the guidance change.
Cases down 20% since last week
Walensky said she was feeling hopeful this week as the 7-day average for new confirmed cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continued to fall.
The 7-day average of new daily cases is now 54,000, down 21% from the previous week. Hospitalizations are down 9%, to an average of 5,100 per day. And daily fatalities have dropped to an average of 660 per day, a decrease of 6%.
The United States reported 47,430 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 479 deaths, according to the New York Times. In total, the country has confirmed 32,152,531 cases, including 573,044 deaths.
In brief remarks delivered outside the White House today, President Joe Biden said the drop in fatalities, especially among older Americans, is a sign of the "stunning progress" the country has made via vaccination.
About 85% of Americans over age 65 have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, Biden said, and the vaccination rate among older White, Black, and Latino Americans is even, a sign vaccine distribution has been equitable.
"July 4th is the target date to get life back to normal and celebrate our independence from the virus," Biden said.
Vaccine efforts focus on young adults
Andy Slavitt, the White House senior advisor for COVID response, said today the federal government plans to send 30 million doses this week to states and territories for continued vaccination efforts. He said now is the time for young adults, like college students, to get vaccinated, and said it was never easier to do so.
Slavitt said the federal response team had confirmed with governors today that college students, who may get a first dose of vaccine near their campus and a second dose in either their home state or town, will not be required to show proof of residence if they get vaccinated through the federal pharmacy program.
The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows 297,543,635 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered in the United States, and 232,407,669 have been administered, with 96,747,454 Americans fully vaccinated.
The Navajo Nation has vaccinated more than half its adult population against COVID-19, outpacing the US national rate, NPR reports. Last May, the Navajo Nation was home to the nation's highest per-capita infection rate.
Despite the push for vaccination, lawmakers in 40 states have now introduced legislation that would forbid mandates requiring people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, USA Today reports.
The bills, which are unlikely to become law, seek to prohibit businesses from requiring employees to be vaccinated or requiring new vaccinations to attend schools and daycares.
Several private colleges have already announced that they will require vaccination for on-campus students in the fall.