"Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities - large or small - without wearing a mask or physically distancing", Walensky said.
The CDC is expected to update its guidelines for the public to say that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors - except in crowded settings like planes and buses.
"If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic", Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House Covid-19 briefing. The announcement comes as the CDC and the Biden administration have faced pressure to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated people - people who are two weeks past their last required COVID-19 vaccine dose - in part to highlight the benefits of getting the shot.
In recent days, though, Walensky has pledged an update on both the CDC's guidance for vaccinated Americans and the science that supports the changes. "And I really look forward to updating the guidance and providing the science that allows us to do so very soon", Walensky said on CNN.
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Republican lawmakers on Tuesday charged that health guidelines have unnecessarily remained in place even as more and more Americans get vaccinated. "We may have to contend with covid again in the winter, but we're looking at a largely covid free summer, and we're well served by CDC's move today to relax their guidance and give a green light to those who felt bound by their mandates".
The easing guidance could open the door to confusion, as there is no surefire way for businesses or others to distinguish between those fully vaccinated and those who are not.
She cited three studies - one from Israel and one from the United States - that show vaccines work.
"We need to follow the science, which is emerging every single day, with regard to variants, with regards to transmissibility, with regard to protection, and then we need to follow our case rates" and see how many people are getting vaccinated, she said.
Walensky said if you develop coronavirus symptoms, you should put your mask back on and get tested right away.
Other experts, however, have said the agency had to move cautiously with a new and unpredictable virus, arguing that updates were appropriate only after real-world evidence demonstrated that the vaccines were as effective as they were in clinical trials.
There are some caveats.
Walensky elaborated on the point in an interview on CNBC, when she was asked why vaccinated people are not being told they can fully unmask in all settings. That's because of continued uncertainty about whether the vaccines can rev up a weakened immune system as well as they do normal, healthy ones.