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CDC says fully vaccinated people can ditch indoor masks, physical distancing

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It's an about-face from guidance issued just 16 days earlier in which the CDC suggested masks should still be used indoors or in crowds even if people are fully immunized, which the CDC defines as two weeks after the final shot.

The new indoor masking guidance follows a CDC announcement two weeks ago that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask when they're outdoors unless they're in a crowd, such as attending a live performance, sporting event or parade.

Most fully-vaccinated Americans can finally stop wearing their masks nearly anywhere - indoors our outdoors, the CDC announced on Thursday. "If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic".

President Joe Biden was set to highlight the new guidance Thursday afternoon in a speech from the White House.

Walensky stood behind the CDC's guidelines that she said is developed with "stakeholders and consumers" before being finalized, defended school recommendations by pointing to immunocompromised populations and got personal when responding to criticism about whether kids at summer camps need to wear masks. "And that's a big motivation get the unvaccinated to want to to get vaccinated". "And I really look forward to updating the guidance and providing the science that allows us to do so very soon", Walensky said on CNN.

She cited three studies - one from Israel and one from the United States - that show vaccines work. "Based on the continuing downward trajectory of cases, the scientific data on the performance of our vaccines and our understanding of how the virus spreads, that moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated". If someone who's vaccinated does develop COVID-19 symptoms, they should immediately put their mask back on and get tested, she said.

Other experts, however, have said the agency had to move cautiously with a new and unpredictable virus, arguing that updates were appropriate only after real-world evidence demonstrated that the vaccines were as effective as they were in clinical trials.

"You should still mask and you should get vaccinated right away", Walensky advised those who haven't been vaccinated.

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