CDC updates outdoor mask guidance for "fully vaccinated" persons

The CDC's guidance follows a study that shows indoor exposure risk is the same for 6 feet as 60.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officials announced today that people who are fully vaccinated don’t need to wear a mask outdoors unless they are in a large group of strangers.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky took a victory lap, stating that “Today, I hope, is a day when we can take another step back to the normalcy of before. Over the past year, we have spent a lot of time telling Americans what you can’t do. Today, I am going to tell you some of the things you can do, if you are fully vaccinated.”

According to Walensky, the CDC decided to relax masking for vaccinated people based on an increase in vaccinations and the decline of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. It was also noted that transmission of COVID-19 outdoors was very low; less than 10% of documented cases.

This announcement is not really a big departure from previous CDC guidance on mask-wearing. Unvaccinated people can do the same exact thing outdoors and one of the previous guidance mandated outdoor mask-wearing unless in a crowd or social distancing was not possible.

It’s also unsurprising given that this past Sunday Dr. Fauci said on ABC News that President Biden would be announcing a "relaxed" mask mandate. Meanwhile, it has been learned that since taking office neither Biden nor Vice President Harris has been attending COVID-19 status calls with governors.

“What I believe you’re going to be hearing, what the country is going to be hearing soon, is updated guidelines from the CDC. 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.”

The outdoor mask announcement being tied to vaccination status is part of a growing trend to coerce or coax people to take the COVID-19 vaccine by dangling freedoms in front of them.

In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper has implied that if more North Carolinians get vaccinated, he may lift capacity limits and other restrictions which are still in place in the Tarheel state.

N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen has echoed Cooper’s sentiments on the matter, including discussions of a “vaccine passport.

Prior to the CDC’s vaccinated mask announcement, an MIT study published in March states that there are just too many variables to indoor transmission, the implication being that the six-foot social distancing rule is arbitrary.

Read the study: A guideline to limit indoor airborne transmission of COVID-19

The MIT-led study found that the six-foot rule failed within minutes in a nursing home situation:

“For natural ventilation (0.34 ACH), the Six-Foot Rule fails after only 3 min under quasi-steady conditions, or after 17 min for the transient response to the arrival of an infected person, in which case the Fifteen-Minute Rule is only marginally safe. With mechanical ventilation (at 8 ACH) in steady state, three occupants could safely remain in the room for no more than 18 min. This example provides insight into the devastating toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on the elderly (86, 88). Furthermore, it underscores the need to minimize the sharing of indoor space, maintain adequate, once-through ventilation, and encourage the use of face masks.”

The study also looked at school classroom settings, which also had issues with variables and didn’t really account for the low virus load of children, suggests that “transmission is rare” with normal ventilation and a mask on.

“We first apply our guideline to a typical American classroom, designed for an occupancy of 19 students and their teacher, and choose a modest risk tolerance, ϵ=10% (Fig. 3A). The importance of adequate ventilation and mask use is made clear by our guideline. For normal occupancy and without masks, the safe time after an infected individual enters the classroom is 1.2 h for natural ventilation and 7.2 h with mechanical ventilation, according to the transient bound, SI Appendix, Eq. S8. Even with cloth mask use (pm=0.3), these bounds are increased dramatically, to 8 and 80 h, respectively. Assuming 6 h of indoor time per day, a school group wearing masks with adequate ventilation would thus be safe for longer than the recovery time for COVID-19 (7 d to 14 d), and school transmissions would be rare. We stress, however, that our predictions are based on the assumption of a “quiet classroom” (38, 77), where resting respiration (Cq=30) is the norm. Extended periods of physical activity, collective speech, or singing would lower the time limit by an order of magnitude (Fig. 2).”

In an interview with CNBC, Martin Bazant, one of the study’s authors said that “We argue there really isn’t much of a benefit to the 6-foot rule, especially when people are wearing masks.”

“The risk of being exposed to Covid-19 indoors is as great at 60 feet as it is at 6 feet — even when wearing a mask, according to a new study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers who challenge social distancing guidelines adopted across the world,” CNBC’s report says.

“It really has no physical basis because the air a person is breathing while wearing a mask tends to rise and comes down elsewhere in the room so you’re more exposed to the average background than you are to a person at a distance,” Bazant told CNBC.