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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced updated guidelines that say people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are safe to attend small outdoor gatherings without wearing a mask. The new recommendations still called for the continued use of masks in most indoor settings and in crowded outdoor areas.

People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, or two weeks after receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Dr. John Greene

As of Friday, the CDC reported having administered more than 237-million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Thirty percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. According to the Florida Department of Health, nearly 6 million Floridians have been fully vaccinated.

“The science definitely supported it,” said Dr. John Greene, chair of Moffitt Cancer Center's Infectious Diseases Department. “The CDC’s definition of an exposure is more then 15 minutes, less than six feet without a mask. Most of your activities outdoors, minus large gatherings, shouldn’t need a mask.”

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the new recommendations mark a significant “step back to normalcy” by giving the go-ahead for fully vaccinated people to participate in the following activities without wearing masks:

  • Walking, running, hiking or biking outdoors alone or with members of their household
  • Attending small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated family and friends
  • Attending small outdoor gatherings with a mixture of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people
  • Dining at outdoor restaurants with friends from multiple households.

The recommendations also say that fully vaccinated people should still wear a mask at "a crowded, outdoor event, like a live performance, parade or sports event." Fully vaccinated people should also continue wearing masks when gathering indoors with unvaccinated people from more than one household, when visiting unvaccinated high-risk people or in an outdoor setting or venue where masks are required.

While the guidelines cover fully vaccinated Americans, the CDC says more than five million people, or about 8%, had missed their second Pfizer or Moderna doses. Without a second dose, a person may be at risk for COVID-19 as soon as a few months after receiving the first vaccine shot.

“The reason the second dose is so importance is because it covers the variants better,” said Greene. “The first dose will give you low antibody levels that may not prevent infection from the variants, whereas the second dose boosts the antibodies much higher will provide adequate protection.”