WASHINGTON — In a major step toward returning to "normal," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced eased indoor mask-wearing guidance Thursday for fully vaccinated people — allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and inside in most situations.
However, the new guidance still calls for masks to be worn in crowded indoor settings such as buses, planes, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters.
The new guidance will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for masks or social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.
With the new mask guidance in place, many residents are left with several questions on the state of mask-wearing across D.C, Maryland and Virginia. All three jurisdictions have different guidelines when it comes to mandatory mask mandates.
Do I still need to wear my mask if I'm in D.C.?
Great question! In the District, people who are fully vaccinated, which means at least two weeks have passed since your J&J shot or second Moderna or Pfizer dose, can:
Gather outdoors with a small gathering of vaccinated and unvaccinated people without wearing a mask, but social distance must be maintained, and people in the group who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks.
Fully vaccinated people can visit with a small group of other fully vaccinated people at a private indoor setting without wearing a mask.
- Travel in the U.S. without getting tested for COVID-19 before or after their trip.
- If it's an international flight, there are a few more rules. If you fly in from another country, you still need to show a negative test before boarding and get tested 3-5 days after you return. If you're flying from the U.S. to another country, you won't need to get tested or quarantine unless the other country requires it.
- Continue activities after being exposed to someone with COVID-19 without needing to get tested or quarantine - unless you are symptoms or live in a group setting, in which case you will need to get tested and quarantine for 14 days.
- Be exempt from routine testing requirements unless you show symptoms of COVID-19 or that organization requires screening tests regardless of vaccination status.
Businesses and other institutions can ask to see your vaccine card or other proof of vaccination, but any event or business that requires vaccinations to be admitted must offer exceptions for people who cannot be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons. They should be allowed to attend with a mask, an order from DC Mayor Muriel Bowser says.
According to that order, employers are also required to provide masks for their employees and can implement mask mandates at the office.
For now, fully vaccinated people are still required to wear masks at indoor venues, and unvaccinated people still need to wear a mask when they come in contact with other people or take public transit. The mayor said she would review the CDC guidance before making any changes to the District's rules.
"It is critical that every resident, worker and visitor get vaccinated to help us crush the virus," Bowser tweeted Thursday. "The vaccine is safe, free, and accessible."
OK, what about if I'm in Maryland? Or Virginia?
Virginia is also following the CDC’s guidance. Wearing a mask outside in the Commonwealth is no longer necessary if you're fully vaccinated as Gov. Ralph Northam lifted the state's mandatory mask mandate Friday afternoon. However, mask use is still required outdoors at large crowded events such as concerts, sporting events and graduation ceremonies.
"Our increasing vaccination rate and decreasing number of new COVID-19 cases has made it possible to ease mitigation measures in a thoughtful and measured manner," Northam said in a release on April 29. "I encourage all Virginians who have not yet received the vaccine to make an appointment today.”
Gov. Northam tweeted Friday afternoon that because of the hard work of Virginians, the Commonwealth can safely move up the timeline for lifting mitigation measures.
Here are some places people still have to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status:
- public transit
- health care facilities
- congregate settings
- K-12 public schools
In Maryland, it’s the same. Masks and face coverings are no longer required for both indoors and outdoors, according to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
Hogan said Maryland's indoor mask mandate will be lifted as the state will fall in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's newly released guidance. The only exceptions for mandatory mask-wearing will be public transportation, health care settings and schools.
According to the governor, more than 5.3 million vaccines have been administered across the state and 86% of Marylanders over the age of 65 and 54.4% of Marylanders over 18 are either fully or partially vaccinated.
"We are well on our way to reaching 70% of all adults vaccinated by Memorial Day weekend," Hogan said Thursday.
Maryland’s case rate per 100,000 has dropped by 64% — the lowest it’s been since Sept. 30, 2020.
Note: Local jurisdictions will have the final say on their mask mandates. Montgomery County has already said they will not be following Hogan's decision to lift capacity restrictions.
Who exactly should be still wearing a mask?
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, said Thursday during the mask guidance announcement that people who have weak immune systems, such as from organ transplants or cancer treatment, should talk with their doctors before shedding their masks -- due to the continued uncertainty about whether the vaccines can trigger a weakened immune system as well as they do normal, healthy ones.
All people should still be wearing masks when in crowded indoor settings such as buses, planes, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters.
Stay with WUSA9 for the latest developments on mask mandates, new mask guidances and responses from local leaders on the requirement of masks.