President Joe Biden is expected to announce Tuesday that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidance for wearing masks outdoors, three people familiar with the expected announcement said.
Ahead of his first address to Congress on Wednesday, the President will give remarks on the state of the pandemic on Tuesday. The three people familiar with the expected announcement said Biden will announce new CDC guidance on whether vaccinated people need to wear masks outdoors, though the final language of the expected announcement is still unclear.
One of Biden’s top coronavirus advisers, Dr. Anthony Fauci, strongly hinted that the guidance would be updated this week, telling CNN’s Jim Acosta Sunday he didn’t want to get ahead of the CDC, but they “will be coming out with updating their guidelines of what people who are vaccinated can do and even some who are not vaccinated.”
The Biden administration is also expected to announce, as early as Tuesday, several other new recommendations for fully vaccinated people in addition to “unmasking outdoors,” a federal official told CNN.
The official said the new recommendations “will provide guidelines for activities fully vaccinated people can resume,” suggesting a broader list than simply guidelines on masks. The recommendations will also provide guidelines for infection control and prevention in health care settings.
A November review in the Journal of Infectious Diseases found that the odds of viral transmission are 18.7 times greater indoors than out, and less than 10% of Covid-19 infections studied occurred outside. Despite that, several states still have outdoor mask mandates in place.
The CDC currently recommends those who have been fully vaccinated should still wear a mask and stay six feet apart from others in public, when gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one other household and when visiting with an unvaccinated person who is at increased risk of severe illness or death from Covid-19 or who lives with a person at increased risk.
People are considered fully vaccinated by the CDC two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The expected updated mask guidance will come as more and more Americans get vaccinated — about 229 million doses have been administered in the US, according to the CDC — and as Biden nears his 100th day in office.
Biden began his presidency by asking Americans to wear masks for 100 days and signed an executive order requiring their use on federal property. The order requires masks and physical distancing in federal buildings, on federal lands and by government contractors, and urges states and local governments to do the same.
White House officials and medical experts, including Fauci, have repeatedly asked the public to wear masks and practice social distancing to stop the spread of the virus.
This story has been updated with additional information.