Do you need to wear a mask outside? CDC reconsidering but NC mandate stays

Digital Investigations

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – CDC director Rachel Walensky said earlier this week that the agency will look at whether masking is still recommended outdoors.

Doctors say deciding to put on your mask outside depends on a number of factors.

North Carolina’s mask mandate is still in place. It says face coverings should be worn outdoors when it is not possible to consistently be physically distant by at least 6 feet from people outside your household.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced earlier this week he could relax face-covering restrictions when two-thirds of adults are vaccinated.

The CDC’s guidance on masking outdoors still isn’t definitive. It says “masks may not be necessary when you are outside by yourself away from others, or with people who live in your household.”

A study from the Journal of Infectious Diseases found fewer than 10 percent of infections happened outside. It also found you are 19-times more likely to be infected indoors than outdoors.

Dr. Emily Sickbert-Bennett, director of Infection Prevention at UNC, told CBS 17 wearing a mask outside depends on the situation.

“There are outdoor settings where you may find yourself in a crowded space and the mask then serves an important role in protecting you,” said Sickbert-Bennett.

She said risk isn’t dependent on the setting. Whether you’re on a trail, at a sporting event or dining, she said there are key things to consider about masking outdoors.

“How many people, what close proximity they are to each other, and then how much time they might be spending in close to contact,” she said.

The more people in the group are vaccinated, the lower the risk if you decide to not wear your mask around others outside.

At the end of the day, she said masking is just one tool in our prevention kit.

“Things are not either safe or unsafe, but the measures we take are measures we take to make things safer,” said Sickbert-Bennett.

Sickbert-Bennett said to always have a mask with you to be prepared for whatever situation you may find yourself in.

Masking and indoor gatherings

The CDC does have definitive masking guidance for indoor gatherings between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

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