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CDC to update outdoor mask guidelines for vaccinated Americans

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to announce updated guidelines for fully vaccinated Americans as early as Tuesday, according to several administration officials. 

A federal official tells CBS News that the Biden administration will release new “interim public health recommendations” that will provide guidelines for activities that vaccinated people may resume, including recommendations related to health care settings and whether to wear masks outdoors. The language of the new guidance is still being finalized, the official said.

“I can again safely say that really, really soon we’re going to be seeing some guidelines that are going to be coming out from the CDC about the wearing of masks and vaccinated versus unvaccinated individuals,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, told a virtual event hosted by the Harvard Chan School of Public Health on Monday

“The risk of infection outside is really minimum. If you’re vaccinated, and you’re outside, it’s even less,” added Dr. Fauci. 

Current CDC guidance acknowledges “masks may not be necessary when you are outside by yourself away from others, or with people who live in your household.” But it also advises individuals to abide by any mask mandates in their local area while out in public, as well as any relevant federal mask mandates.

On Tuesday, President Biden will make remarks on the current state of the pandemic, and the White House COVID-19 Response Team is likely to have more information about the updated guidance at its press briefing, which will also be held on Tuesday.

In the months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, researchers have repeatedly found that it’s likely that outdoor transmission makes up a small share of infections. 

The CDC in March published research detailing a successful effort by one New Jersey school to curb COVID-19 outbreaks where, among other measures, meals and sports were held mostly outdoors.

The agency over the weekend also urged summer camps to plan for more activities outdoors “whenever possible” as one of a handful of “key prevention strategies” in updated guidance for camp counselors. 

Early research also suggests fully vaccinated people carry substantially less virus in their body even in cases of rare “breakthrough” infections of COVID-19, which scientists suspect means the virus is less likely to spread to others. 

One recent CDC study that examined Chicago-area nursing homes found most fully vaccinated staff and residents with “breakthrough” infections of COVID-19 had no symptoms, and none appeared to spread the disease to others.

The U.S. reported Monday having administered 230,768,454 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Thirty-seven percent of adults have received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

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