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Fully vaccinated? You can ditch the mask, per CDC

The guidance is based on research showing the high effectiveness of the vaccines.
/ Source: NBC News

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks or physically distance — whether indoors or outdoors in most circumstances.

"We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy," CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a media briefing Thursday afternoon.

"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," Walensky said, "that moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated."

The new recommendation comes more than a year after the CDC first recommended that Americans should wear masks to protect against spreading or catching the coronavirus. At that time, the U.S. was logging more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths per day.

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the last dose of COVID-19 vaccine. That gives the immune system enough time to develop antibodies against the virus. According to CDC data, more than 35% of the population has been fully vaccinated.

There are a few caveats, however. People who have compromised immune systems, for example, should talk to their doctors about continuing with mitigation measures. And even fully vaccinated people may still be asked to wear masks in certain locations, such as in hospitals or other health care settings, as well as public transportation.

"Right now for travel, we're asking people to wear their masks," Walensky said. "We still have the requirement to wear masks when you travel on buses, trains and other forms of public transportation."

Even though the vaccines work well, they are not perfect, and breakthrough infections can occur. Of the more than 117 million people in the U.S. who have been fully vaccinated, 9,245 later tested positive for COVID-19. Those illnesses have generally been mild.

For now, the CDC guidance only applies to those who have been fully vaccinated. Soon, that group will include kids ages 12 and older, now that the CDC and FDA have both signed off on COVID-19 vaccines for that age group.

The CDC is expected to update its guidance on kids in school and summer camps soon.

This story was originally published on NBC News.