» UPDATE: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its masking guidelines since this article published. To learn about the latest guidelines, click here.

Throughout the pandemic, outdoor activities have always been considered safer than indoor ones, especially when you can socially distance and wear a mask. But recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines to say fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear a mask in most outdoor situations.

“Today is another day we can take a step back to the normalcy of before,” said CDC director Rochelle Walensky in a White House press briefing.

There may be more situations where it’s considered safe to go without your face covering if you’re fully vaccinated. (Consider it one more reason to book a vaccination appointment ASAP.) But masks are still an important safety tool and are advised for a variety of scenarios for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Here’s when you should keep your mask on, and when you can go without it, according to your vaccination status.

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General advice

The CDC’s guidelines include an array of situations and settings. While this can be helpful, it can also make the advice hard to remember. The CDC also cannot possibly give guidance on every single activity you may be wondering about. So here are a few takeaways to remember:

  1. You’re safer once fully vaccinated, which allows you to do more things without a mask.

  2. Whether you’re vaccinated or not, you don’t need to wear a mask if you’re just headed outside on a walk, jog, or bike ride.

  3. Once you’re fully vaccinated, masks aren’t necessary in most outdoor settings, unless you’re in a crowd.

  4. For most indoor activities in a public setting, like getting a haircut or going grocery shopping, everyone should wear a mask.

  5. It’s always a smart idea to carry a mask with you in the event you need it.

  6. The guidelines will be updated based on the level of COVID-19 spread, the proportion of the population that is fully vaccinated, and the rapidly evolving science on COVID-19 vaccines.

With more than 50% of the U.S. population having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, many experts say it’s the right time to start easing restrictions. There’s also ample evidence that suggests the risk of infection outside is lower. One report that looked at multiple scientific studies showed the coronavirus is almost 19 times more likely to spread indoors than outdoors.

“Transmission itself is pretty unlikely outdoors because there’s constant circulation of air,” says Darren Mareiniss, an emergency medicine doctor at Einstein Medical Center. “We are getting new freedoms, which is a good thing. It’s excellent progress, and the faster everyone gets vaccinated, the better for everyone because we’ll be able to ease up even more.”

When you don’t need a mask, if you’re fully vaccinated

You’ve got both Pfizer and Moderna shots or one Johnson & Johnson shot? It’s been two weeks since the last shot? If you’ve answered “yes” to both of these questions, you can go without mask in most outdoor settings, including:

  • going for a solo walk, run, or bike ride outside.

  • going for a walk, run, or bike ride outside with members of your household.

  • gathering outdoors with a small group of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated friends.

  • dining outdoors at a restaurant with people from your household or with friends from multiple households.

You also don’t need to wear a mask indoors when you’re:

  • gathering indoors with a small group of fully vaccinated people.

  • gathering indoors with unvaccinated people from only one other household, and no one in that household (or anyone they live with) has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

When you should wear a mask, even though you’re fully vaccinated

Once you’re fully vaccinated, you still need to wear a mask outdoors in crowded settings, as well as in most public indoor settings, including if you’re:

  • going to a crowded, outdoor event, like a live performance, parade, or sports event.

  • going to a barber or hair salon.

  • going to an uncrowded, indoor shopping center or museum.

  • riding public transportation with limited occupancy.

  • attending a small, indoor gathering with a mix of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

  • going to an indoor movie theater.

  • attending a full-capacity worship service.

  • singing in an indoor chorus.

  • eating at an indoor restaurant or bar.

  • participating in an indoor, high-intensity exercise class.

Even if you’re fully vaccinated, you should still avoid indoor crowds. If you’re going shopping, for example, you may want to go on a weekday instead of during the weekend. You’re also discouraged from attending large indoor parties or going to a crowded indoor attraction where capacity limits aren’t in place.

“It’s all about air circulation. The majority of the virus is spread through aerosols and those indoor environments are often poorly circulated, so it’s much more likely you could become infected,” says Mareiniss. “Even if you’re vaccinated, although you have much less of a chance of hospitalization and death, no vaccine is 100% protective.”

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When you don’t need a mask, if you’re not vaccinated

There are a few outdoor situations where you don’t need a mask, whether you’re vaccinated or not, including if you’re:

  • going for a solo walk, run, or bike ride outside.

  • going for a walk, run, or bike ride outside with members of your household.

  • attending a small, outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated family and friends.

You can take off your mask indoors if you’re gathering with vaccinated people from one other household, and no one in your household has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

When you should wear a mask, if you’re not vaccinated

If you’re not vaccinated, you’re advised to wear a mask in most outdoor situations that involve other people, including if you’re:

  • attending a small, outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

  • dining outdoors at a restaurant with people from your household or multiple households (outdoor dining is considered “less safe” for unvaccinated people than vaccinated people, says the CDC).

Crowded, outdoor events, like a live performance, parade, or sports event, aren’t considered safe to attend unless you’re vaccinated, says the CDC. But if you are going to attend one, make sure to mask up.

If you’re not vaccinated, you should wear a mask for most public indoor activities where other people may be present. The CDC has highlighted several indoor activities that are considered “less safe” if you’re masked and unvaccinated but “safe” if you’re masked and vaccinated. If unvaccinated, this means you’ll need to weigh the risks vs. the benefits, and, of course, wear a mask if you go. These include:

  • going to a barber or hair salon.

  • going to an uncrowded, indoor shopping center or museum.

  • riding public transportation with limited occupancy.

  • attending a small, indoor gathering of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people from multiple households.

Some indoor activities aren’t considered safe to attend unless you’re vaccinated, says the CDC. These include:

  • going to an indoor movie theater.

  • attending a full-capacity worship service.

  • singing in an indoor chorus.

  • eating at an indoor restaurant or bar.

  • participating in an indoor, high-intensity exercise class.

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