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It's Time To 'Move On' From Outdoor Mask Mandates, Infectious Disease Doctor Says

BOSTON (CBS) -- As the weather gets warmer, some experts say it may be time to drop those outdoor mask mandates. They make the assertion that outdoor infections are rare, and predict mandates requiring mask-wearing outside could be lifted in the coming weeks.

"It's time, I think, for us to move on and recognize that we've made real progress in the science of virus transmission," said Dr. Paul Sax, an infectious disease specialist at Brigham & Women's Hospital.

Sax said the science supports losing the mask in certain scenarios when people are outside.

"We've now known for some time that transmission outside is very uncommon, especially uncommon among people who are by themselves," he said. "And so for there to be a mask mandate for people who are walking around outside by themselves just doesn't seem to make sense anymore and it might distract people from understanding where the transmissions actually happen."

Sax said transmission doesn't take place when people are just going for a walk by themselves and pass someone on the street, trail or track.

"Being outside improves the ventilation so enormously that anybody who might be carrying the virus, it's instantly diluted in the air," he said. "That's one of the great things about being outside."

According to Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, outdoor activity can be seen as largely a safe thing, unless they are gatherings involving large numbers of people in packed spaces for long periods of time, such as rallies.

"I think it's pretty safe to be out and about and walking around without a mask," Jha told CNN, speaking about the outdoors.

Gov. Charlie Baker said last week there were no immediate plans in Massachusetts to change the mask mandate. New Hampshire ended its mask mandate last Friday.

Health experts agree there is still a need for masks indoors.

Reaction among the public was mixed.

"It's been a lot to wear a mask everywhere," Andrew Russo of Boston said. "I've felt uncomfortable in places where I didn't have a mask and other people didn't have a mask."

"I think still it might be a little too soon with the variants that are around," another person said.

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