cdc masks

Do You Need to Wear a Mask for Outdoor Dining? What the New CDC Guidance Means

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With new guidelines released for wearing masks outside, many are questioning if they will need to have a mask in order to dine outdoors?

The CDC revealed Tuesday that vaccinated people don't need to cover their faces anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers. 

The CDC guidance says that fully vaccinated or not, people do not have to wear masks outdoors when they walk, bike or run alone or with members of their household. They also can go maskless in small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated people.

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But from there, the CDC has differing guidance for people who are fully vaccinated and those who are not.

Unvaccinated people — defined by the CDC as those who have yet to receive both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson formula — should wear masks at outdoor gatherings that include other unvaccinated people. They also should keep using masks at outdoor restaurants.

Fully vaccinated people do not need to cover up in those situations, the CDC says.

Under the guidance, dining at an outdoor restaurant with friends from multiple households is considered safe for fully vaccinated people to do without a mask., less safe for unvaccinated people, who should wear a mask

However, everyone should keep wearing masks at crowded outdoor events such as concerts or sporting events, the CDC says.

Chicago Department of Public Health Comissioner Allison Arwady stressed, however, that masks are still required in indoor settings.

"Masks remain required indoors. Just to be very, very clear about this difference, we are very, very strongly still requiring," Arwady said. "The risk remains higher indoors... But if you are out in a restaurant and you can't know whether everybody around you has been vaccinated - we're working to get restaurant staff vaccinated, etc.- the expectation remains indoors that you would be wearing that mask putting it on when servers are near you, etc. But fully vaccinated, you know, out of doors we're mostly thinking about when people are out and about."

And the CDC continues to recommend masks at indoor public places, such as hair salons, restaurants, shopping centers, gyms, museums and movie theaters, saying that is still the safer course even for vaccinated people.

Officials said a focus in the coming weeks will be on easing guidance for vaccinated people, both in recognition of their lower risk and to provide an incentive to get shots.

Chicago's top doctor said the city will follow the new CDC guidance, calling the changes "exciting."

"The point here in everything as we're moving ahead is that when you are vaccinated, that is the big difference between whether you are at significant risk for COVID," Arwady said. "And so what's different about the fact that, you know, yes, we still have almost 550 new cases of COVID every day. That's high risk. In general, the way we've already thought about COVID it means that when you're gathering in a setting there can be a significant risk, but the thing that is different now is that that risk is completely bifurcated on whether it's a highly vaccinated setting. If you are in a highly vaccinated setting, if you yourself are vaccinated and the great majority of the people around you are vaccinated, the risk of you getting COVID, even with 550 cases in Chicago, is very, very, very, very, very low."

Arwady said she expects the city to begin "turning that dial" and allowing further reopening in the coming days and weeks, depending on vaccine uptake. She did not specify what that reopening might include, however.

"We will be, I expect to sort of over just the next few days, be turning that dial and be announcing some additional reopening because you heard we're making some really good progress here, but I want people to hear that within that reopening we are making the assumption that Chicagoans will continue to make that decision to get vaccinated," Arwady said during a press conference.

Illinois' health department said Monday that it plans to follow CDC masking guidelines.

"At this time, Illinois plans to remain in concert with CDC masking guidelines," IDPH said in a statement.

Illinois has been under a statewide mask mandate for more than a year, which states:

"Any individual who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering (a mask or cloth face covering) shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a face covering when in a public place and unable to maintain at least a six-foot social distance. This requirement applies whether in an indoor space, such as a store, or in an outdoor space."

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