The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention updated its COVID-19 guidance Thursday, saying fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or physically distance in most settings unless required by regulations.
The immediate impact of the new CDC recommendations on restaurants remained unclear. A spokesperson for the National Restaurant Association and its ServeSafe team said her colleagues were still evaluating the change in guidance.
The CDC update said “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
The agency also said fully vaccinated people could refrain from testing following a known exposure unless they were residents or employees of a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House Covid-19 briefing that was reported by CNN. “We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”
The move is expected to prompt changes in restrictions at the state and local level. About half of the states across the U.S. no longer have mask mandates, according to The New York Times, and several lifted their mask mandates on Thursday following the CDC update, including Illinois, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Connecticut and Kentucky. Others expressed caution, saying they would review the new guidelines.
The majority of the American population remains unvaccinated.
Becker’s Hospital Review, which is tracking vaccination percentages, said that as of 6 p.m. EDT Wednesday, about 35.4% of the U.S. population, or 117.6 million Americans, had been fully vaccinated.
The CDC’s updated recommendations apply to non-healthcare settings, the CDC said, adding that fully vaccinated people can:
- Resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by law.
- Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel
- Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States
- Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions.
- Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic.
- Refrain from routine screening testing if feasible.
Until Thursday, the CDC had recommended wearing a mask while dining in a restaurant, "particularly indoors and when speaking with restaurant workers and servers, except when actively eating or drinking." The agency cited the heightened risk of COVID-19 spread in restaurants and bar settings as interaction within six feet of others increased.
The CDC said fully vaccinated people should continue to get tested if they suffer COVID-19 symptoms and follow health department travel requirements and recommendations.
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