The CDC updated masking guidelines for fully vaccinated Americans—here’s what you need to know

The CDC's mask rules are changing. (Photo: Getty Images / kali9)

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Over the past year, many of us have come to rely on our face masks. These trusty strips of cloth provide protection against the transmission of COVID-19, making everyday activities from grocery shopping to walks outside safer. But now, top U.S. medical officials say you may be able to rely on your mask a little less. If you’re fully vaccinated you no longer need to wear a mask outside unless you’re in a crowded setting or venue, according to new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Don’t toss your favorite mask just yet, though. Masks are still recommended for most indoor activities and other guidelines vary depending on where you live, any health conditions you may have, and if you’re around any unvaccinated people. Read on to find out when you can and can’t leave that mask behind.

When you need to wear a mask

First, we should talk about what counts as fully vaccinated. In the United States, it’s anyone who is two weeks or more out from their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks or more out from the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. If you are not yet fully vaccinated, you should continue following the same masking guidelines from the CDC and your city or/state as before. Immunocompromised people should consult with their healthcare providers before venturing out without a mask, even if fully vaccinated.

Anyone who meets the criteria for full vaccination should still wear masks during crowded outdoor events such as live performances, parades, sports events, or any situation when it is impossible to create social distance with strangers. Masks should also be worn when indoors with people who do not live in your household, such as grocery shopping, riding public transportation, and attending small indoor gatherings.

When you can skip the masks

If you're fully vaccinated, you can unmask for outdoor runs, walks, and bike rides. (Photo: Getty Images / PeopleImages)

If you are fully vaccinated, you may unmask while walking, biking, or running outside alone or with members of your household. You can also remove the mask for small outdoor gatherings with vaccinated and unvaccinated people present and while eating at an outdoor restaurant with people from multiple households. Previous guidance from the CDC also allows visiting with unvaccinated people, including children, from a single household who are at low risk for infection.

Again, double-check the rules where you live. Some states and cities are lifting making regulations at different rates, so you may have additional regulations—or more options—to keep in mind while planning your activities.

Best masks to buy while you still need one

We love Athleta and Old Navy's masks. (Photo: Athleta / Old Navy)

If you haven’t gotten around to getting a mask yet—or just need a new one—we have options for you. We’ve tested a bunch of them and found that Athleta’s non-medical face masks, available in a five-pack of fun colors and patterns (or just black if you prefer to keep it simple) for $14.99, are the best ones out there. Each mask is triple-layered, which provides ample protection, but made of thin, breathable fabric that makes it more comfortable and easier to breathe than a lot of other masks, whether you’re just walking around or working out. (Athleta is an activewear brand, after all.) Other features, such as its adjustable ear loops and nose wire, make it a true pleasure to wear.

Prefer masks that tie behind the head instead of ear loops? If so, we like TakeCare Supply’s overhead masks, available for $10.50 each. These masks have soft, stretchy ties that can be adjusted for a nice over-the-head fit. It also has three layers of fabric plus a pocket for a filter to provide extra protection and is made of a soft, breathable cotton to keep you comfy while you wear it.

If you’re looking for a less expensive option, we also love Old Navy’s face masks—currently available as a five-pack for as low as $4. This mask doesn’t have an adjustable nose wire or a pocket for a filter but its soft cotton fabric makes it easy to breathe and doesn’t feel abrasive on the skin. It also has adjustable ear loops to help you find your ideal fit.

  • Shop Athleta masks starting at $14.99
  • Shop TakeCare masks for $10.50 each
  • Shop Old Navy masks starting at $3.97

The product experts at Reviewed have all your shopping needs covered. Follow Reviewed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest deals, reviews, and more.

Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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