coronavirus

Biden Administration Set to Relax Outdoor Mask Guidance

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  • The Biden administration is slated to relax federal public health guidance on wearing masks outdoors as soon as this week.
  • The announcement, which may come as early as Tuesday, could be supplemented with differing guidance for fully vaccinated people and those who have not received a coronavirus vaccine.
  • White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci indicated that the new mask guidance was imminent but also warned that Americans should continue to adhere to public health measures until the CDC makes an assessment.

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is slated to relax federal public health guidance on wearing masks outdoors as soon as this week, a source familiar with the plans told NBC News.

The announcement, which may come as early as Tuesday, could give separate recommendations for fully vaccinated people and those who have not received a coronavirus vaccine, added the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The administration is still finalizing the guidance, NBC reported.

Over the weekend, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci indicated that the new mask guidance was imminent but also warned that Americans should adhere to public health measures until the CDC makes an assessment.

"What I believe you're going to be hearing, what the country is going to be hearing soon, is updated guidelines from the CDC," Fauci told ABC's Sunday program "This Week With George Stephanopoulos." "The CDC is a science-based organization. They don't want to make any guidelines unless they look at the data and the data backs it up."

"But when you look around at the common sense situation, the risk is really low, especially if you're vaccinated," he said.

The CDC's current guidance states that "masks may not be necessary when you are outside by yourself away from others, or with people who live in your household."

"However, some areas may have mask mandates while out in public, so please check the rules in your local area (such as in your city, county, or state). Additionally, check whether any federal mask mandates apply to where you will be going," the agency adds.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, said he supports the anticipated guidance from the CDC. He added that more research is showing that very few Covid-19 infections happen in outdoor settings.

But masks should still be mandated in indoor settings, he said, until most of the U.S. population is vaccinated and it is difficult for the virus to spread from one person to the next.

"It's been over a year. We have a very good understanding of who gets infected and how they get infected," he told CNBC in a phone interview. "I think it's fair to say you don't need to wear a mask outside unless you can't maintain 2 meters or 6 feet of social distancing."

"Masking outdoors likely doesn't provide much added protection,' he added.

On Monday, Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that he believes outdoor mask mandates are no longer necessary as the U.S. vaccinates more people.

More than 42% of the U.S. population has received at least one vaccine dose, including 28.5% who have been fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

"People could choose to wear a mask if they want to. I think there shouldn't be requirements that they have to wear masks outdoors," the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner said on "Squawk Box."

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