Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can now ditch masks in indoor and outdoor settings—even in crowds—according to an announcement made today by Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"We have all longed for this moment," Walensky said of the return to normalcy. "If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic."
Hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, buses, trains, and airplanes are some locations that will still require masks. Local city and community governments will also make decisions on mask use in schools and municipal buildings, Walensky said.
It is unclear, at this time, how private businesses, stores, and offices will handle existing mask mandates with the CDC's new guidance.
Changes made because of vaccine efficacy
Walensky and Anthony Fauci, MD, the White House chief medical advisor, said the CDC's updated guidance is possible because of the effectiveness of three vaccines available for all US adults and the Pfizer vaccine now approved for all Americans ages 12 and up.
The vaccines have helped America reduce daily case and death counts to numbers last seen in April 2020, Walensky said. The country is averaging 587 deaths and 36,800 cases per day, a 7-day average that's dropped 21% in the previous week.
The United States reported 35,878 new COVID-19 cases and 848 deaths yesterday, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. In total, the United States has reported 32,840,007 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 584,249 deaths.
The announcement also matches the nation's mood: Just 3 in 10 Americans say they are worried about contracting COVID-19, according to the latest Gallup Poll. It's the lowest number in a year's worth of measurement.
More than 2 million shots a day
Though most experts believe herd immunity will likely evade the United States, President Biden maintains a goal of having 70% of Americans who are eligible for vaccines getting at least one dose by Jul 4, marking the country's independence from the pandemic.
The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows 337,089,765 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered in the country and 264,680,844 have been administered, with 117,647,439 Americans fully vaccinated.
According to the New York Times, officials are administering 2.16 million doses per day on average, about a 36% decrease from the peak of 3.38 million reported in April.
In related news, White House officials told governors on a private call Tuesday that states won't be receiving any doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week, Politico reports. Federal officials were not clear as to when supply of the one-dose vaccine would be back in stock.
And in an effort to encourage more vaccine uptake, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine yesterday announced five weekly drawings of $1 million open to residents who've received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to NPR.
The first of the weekly drawings, which use money from existing federal coronavirus relief funds, will be May 26.