The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its mask guidelines Tuesday, a move supported by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).
As of Tuesday, vaccinated Americans don’t need to mask up when they’re outside unless they are in a large crowd while unvaccinated people can go maskless outside in certain situations, as well.
Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their last dose of the vaccine.
Speaking to reporters prior to the announcement, Portman said they should follow the science.
“Everything I’ve seen in the science on masks says when you’re outside and people have been vaccinated, it’s not necessary to wear masks; Now inside is a different matter,” he said. “For people who are exercising outside, people who are going for a walk, there should not be a mask mandate based on the science.”
Outside, Portman continued, is different than indoors, where air isn’t always well circulated.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday said vaccines are helping to get Americans “back to more normal living.”
“Getting together with friends, going to the park for a picnic without needing to mask up, we’re back to that place now as long as you get vaccinated,” Biden said. “So go get the shot.”
During his press conference Tuesday, Biden walked out of the White House alone in a mask, removed it to speak and didn’t put it back on when he left the lectern.
He said he wanted Americans to watch “me take it off and not put it back on until I walk back inside.”
During his weekly update Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine said the mask changes are not a surprise, though he only had a chance to take a quick look at them.
“We know that being outside is much, much safer,” he said. “We know being vaccinated is much, much safer. What (the CDC) put out today, at least in a fast read, I don’t think is any surprise. If we’re in a crowded area outside, we need to worry about that, we need to be careful about that, we need to have a mask.”
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the change in the recommendations is another step “back to the normalcy of before” that came about from rising vaccination numbers, a decline in cases, hospitalizations and deaths and research showing less than 10% of documented transmission of the virus happened outdoors.
The new guidelines say even unvaccinated people do not have to wear masks outdoors when they walk, bike or run alone or with members of their household. They can also have small gatherings with fully vaccinated people without a mask.
However, unvaccinated people should wear masks at outdoor gatherings with other unvaccinated people and at outdoor restaurants. Fully vaccinated people need not mask up in those situations.
“The timing is right because we now have a fair amount of data about the scenarios where transmission occurs,” said Mercedes Carnethon, a professor and vice chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
What’s more, she said, “the additional freedoms may serve as a motivator” for people to get vaccinated.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)