RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — On Tuesday, the CDC said fully vaccinated people can now safely be at small outdoor gatherings without wearing a mask — even if some of the people they’re with are not vaccinated.
The update to their guidelines comes as COVID-19 case rates go down, and as data shows the virus is spread most indoors.
“In indoor settings, it’s a lot more difficult to physical distance and you don’t have the benefit of increased ventilation,” said Dr. Emily Sickbert-Bennett, director of infection prevention for UNC Medical Center.
For crowded outdoor events, like a concert or sporting event, a mask is still required.
“I know the quarantine and shutdowns throughout the pandemic have been exhausting. I know we all miss the things we used to do before the pandemic,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director.
The CDC said if you’re fully vaccinated, you can safely return to some of those pre-pandemic activities while wearing a mask, such as indoor worship services, exercise classes, and going to restaurants.
“We do know the vaccine is very effective but there are some rare cases of vaccine breakthrough disease,” said Dr. Sickbert-Bennett.
Health leaders said by wearing a mask, you’re mainly protecting people around you who are not vaccinated.
“The next most important thing for everyone to do is to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Sickbert-Bennett.
As of Tuesday afternoon, just under a third of North Carolina’s total population is now fully vaccinated.
Health leaders’ goal is to at least double that.
“The more people who are vaccinated, the more steps we can take toward spending time with people we love doing the things we enjoy,” said Dr. Walensky.
Health leaders said they can’t define how many people are in a small group since it depends on the different factors of a situation, but they recommend using your best judgement and erring on the side of caution when gathering.
This is the third time the CDC’s changed the guidelines for fully vaccinated people.