Masks still required during air travel as CDC loosens indoor mask guidelines for fully vaccinated people

May 13, 2021

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As Diana Ross sang, “Drop the Mask.” But not if you’re planning to travel.

On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that fully vaccinated people — those who had their final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least two weeks prior — can safely go maskless in most indoor and outdoor settings.

More: What to know about COVID-19 vaccines in the US

The CDC’s new guidance notes that while local, state, or federal entities can still mandate masks in a variety of settings, vaccinated people can remove their masks, where allowed, without a significant risk of spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus or contracting COVID-19. Social distancing can also end for vaccinated people, the CDC said.

“We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “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, that moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated.”

(Screenshot courtesy of CDC)

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” she added.

Notably, however, masks will continue to be required on public forms of transportation, including on planes and in airports, as well as on buses and trains. That requirement was recently extended through at least September 13.

However, Walensky hinted that the requirement could be waived sooner.

“Right now for travel, we are asking people to continue to wear their masks,” Dr. Walensky said. “We are going to be looking at all of our guidance and updating all of our guidance, including our travel guidance.”

The CDC emphasized that the new guidance only applies for those who are vaccinated. Anyone who has not completed the full vaccination course — two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna shots, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson jab — and waited for two weeks should continue to wear masks.

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Earlier this week, the CDC said that it would slightly relax mask requirements aboard cruise ships, allowing fully vaccinated travelers to sit maskless in lounge chairs and around pools outdoors.

In recent weeks, the FAA has fined numerous passengers for disruptive incidents on board airplanes, including refusing to wear masks and ignoring fight attendants’ instructions.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-SWA, praised the continuance of mask mandates aboard aircraft.

“Rules for aviation safety are harmonized around the world, and we must have credibility in the safety of flight if the U.S. aviation industry is to regain access to the rest of the world and fully recover,” Nelson said in a statement to TPG. “We will continue to work with FAA, TSA, CDC, and other government agencies to end this pandemic.”

She added: “So get vaxxed, wear a mask, and come fly with us!”

In addition to various public jurisdictions, private businesses are allowed to continue to require masks, the CDC said. At press time, there was no word of relaxed requirements at any hotel or resort chains in the U.S.

Featured photo by Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images




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