Masks can be off (mostly) for fully vaccinated Americans

Oscar Wong/Moment, Getty Images
(Oscar Wong/Moment, Getty Images)

Take off the mask? The answer is a qualified "yes" for Americans who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxes restrictions imposed in the early days of the pandemic.

Fully vaccinated people can go about their day-to-day activities, indoors and out, without wearing a mask or taking other COVID-19 precautions, according to the CDC. That includes adolescents ages 12 to 15 two weeks after they've taken the second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine recently approved for them.

Those are the yeses – now for the qualifications.

Masks are still required for fully vaccinated people in some circumstances, such as:

  • Where mandated by state or local law
  • In health care settings, businesses and workplaces that require masking
  • When using public transportation and in airports and bus depots

Traveling is a complicated matter. The CDC provides guidance for domestic and international travel, and has a travel planner about specific U.S. destinations.

Unmasking is a function of age as well. While vaccinated adolescents can go maskless in most circumstances outside school, face coverings are still recommended in public for children ages 2 to 11. Children younger than 2 shouldn't wear a face mask.

For the unvaccinated, the 3 W's still apply: Wear a mask, watch your distance (staying 6 feet apart) and wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer, if soap and water aren't available).

COVID-19 remains the preeminent public health threat, with almost 33 million cases and almost 585,000 deaths in the U.S. It's a particular menace to heart attack and stroke survivors and people with heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes.

Health authorities strongly recommend the vaccines, which are highly effective and safe. Find a vaccination site nearby.