PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) - U.S. health officials say fully vaccinated Americans don't need to wear masks outdoors anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers, and those who are unvaccinated can go without a face covering outside in some cases, too.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the updated guidance Tuesday in yet another carefully calibrated step on the road back to normal from the coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 570,000 people in U.S.
For most of the past year, the CDC had been advising Americans to wear masks outdoors if they are within 6 feet of each other.
The change comes as more than half of U.S. adults have gotten at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, and more than a third have been fully vaccinated.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has also updated its masking guidance to align with the CDC. An Allegheny County spokesperson said the health department will do what the state does.
Not many people were wearing masks down by the Allegheny River on a beautiful Tuesday in Pittsburgh. It came in anticipation of the CDC and Biden administration loosening those guidelines.
On the North Shore, people say it's time to start loosening up.
"Out in public like we were today, just two friends just walking around doing some things, there's nobody around -- my mask is in my car. I think it's more or less a respect thing for other people for me," said Ray Chobanian from Bellevue.
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"It will definitely be liberating and the breathing -- cardio and masks is very hard," said Ann Painter from Baldwin.
The loosening will have no effect on Tuesday's Pirates game. People are still required to wear masks and the Pirates say there has been no change in policy.
The CDC, which has been cautious in its guidance during the crisis, essentially endorsed what many Americans have already been doing over the past several weeks.
The CDC guidance says that fully vaccinated or not, people do not have to wear masks outdoors when they walk, bike or run alone or with members of their household. They also can go maskless in small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated people.
But from there, the CDC has differing guidance for people who are fully vaccinated and those who are not.
Unvaccinated people — defined by the CDC as those who have yet to receive both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson formula — should wear masks at outdoor gatherings that include other unvaccinated people. They also should keep using masks at outdoor restaurants.
Fully vaccinated people do not need to cover up in those situations, the CDC says.
However, everyone should keep wearing masks at crowded outdoor events such as concerts or sporting events, the CDC says.
The agency continues to recommend masks at indoor public places, such as hair salons, restaurants, shopping centers, museums and movie theaters.
The state says 30 percent of Pennsylvanians are fully vaccinated. Still, the big question is when will we see no masks?
"The answer to that question is when everyone gets vaccinated. We know that vaccines work. We've seen that with the decrease in numbers of the elderly getting admitted during the most recent surge," said Allegheny Health Network Chief Medical Officer Don Whiting said.
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