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CDC Updates Indoor Mask Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated Americans

Masking, public health precautions continue at health care facilities. Commonwealth’s mask order remains for unvaccinated residents

May 14, 2021

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that—with a few key exceptions—people who are fully vaccinated can resume most indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing.

The updated guidelines do not impact masking requirements at the nation’s hospitals and health care facilities, the CDC said. Health care settings will continue to follow their specific infection control protocols to ensure safe care during the pandemic.

In Pennsylvania, the Department of Health said that the state’s mask order aligns with the new CDC recommendation and provides another incentive for everyone to get vaccinated. The state’s masking requirement remains in place for unvaccinated individuals until 70 percent of residents age 18 and older are fully vaccinated, Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said.

The “guidance from the CDC affects only people who are fully vaccinated,” Acting Health Secretary Beam said in a statement. “This is another incentive to get the vaccine that is now easily and conveniently available. Once 70 percent of Pennsylvanians over 18 are fully vaccinated, we can completely lift the masking order.”

CDC officials said the outstanding efficacy of the approved COVID-19 vaccines and recent drop in COVID-19 cases has allowed the agency to update its masking guidance for fully vaccinated Americans.

 “We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC.

Fully vaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks in crowded indoor settings—such as planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation—or when required to by health care facilities, state, local, or other workplace regulations, the CDC said. Anyone who experiences COVID-19 symptoms should wear a mask and get tested.

“By getting vaccinated with one of the three safe and effective vaccines, you are adding the best layer of protection for yourself and others,” Acting Health Secretary Beam said. “If you are fully vaccinated, it is an incentive to be able to remove your mask, but businesses and workplaces may still require this added layer of protection for their employees or customers that may have underlying conditions that continue to make them vulnerable to this virus."

Walensky said the CDC updated its recommendations after reviewing studies showing the real-world effectiveness of the approved vaccines. She also stressed that people who are not vaccinated should continue to wear a mask indoors to protect themselves from infection.

People who are immunocompromised should talk with their health care provider before adjusting their public health precautions, Dr. Walensky said.

You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final dose of a two-part COVID-19 vaccine, or two weeks following the single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine.

According to the CDC, fully vaccinated individuals:

  • Can resume the activities they did prior to the pandemic
  • Do not need to get tested before or after domestic travel or self-quarantine after
  • Must show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the United States and get tested three to five days after international travel
  • Should continue to follow guidance at your local health care facilities, workplaces or businesses, as well as federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations

"We ask that Pennsylvanians continue to be kind and respectful to each other as we continue to fight COVID-19 in our communities and continue to get residents vaccinated," Acting Secretary Beam said.

HAP encourages everyone who is eligible to make an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The approved vaccines are free, safe, and effective and provide outstanding protection for yourself and the people you love in your community.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is one way that everyone can help contribute to the end of the pandemic.

For more information, contact Robert Shipp III, PhD, BSN, RN, NEA-BC, HAP’s vice president, population health and clinical affairs.