Over a year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the daily lives of people around the world. Masks and a two-meter distance from people became the norm. Now, over a year after the first outbreak of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are changing the rules to which we have become accustomed. On Thursday, the federal agency announced that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing.

“When you are fully vaccinated you can start doing the things you stopped doing because of the pandemic,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky during a Covid-19 briefing at the White House. “We have all longed for that moment when we can return to a sense of normalcy.”

The new recommendations apply to both indoor and outdoor areas. However, there are some warnings in this announcement. According to the CDC website, anyone with a weakened immune system should discuss their options with their doctor. Additionally, the new recommendations do not apply in locations where “federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations” adhere to the mask and social distancing mandates. The recommendations are also intended to help make decisions about daily activities rather than engaging with “health facilities”.

The CDC also gave some insight into the importance of full vaccination on its official website. The rate applies to people who are two weeks after taking the Johnson & Johnson Jenssen single-dose vaccine. Those who have taken the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in two doses must wait two weeks after taking the second dose to be considered fully vaccinated.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines are “effective in preventing COVID-19 diseases, particularly serious illnesses and deaths”. However, the agency is still learning about the length of time the vaccine works, effectiveness against variants of the virus, and effectiveness in people with compromised immune systems.

As previously reported, in April the CDC updated its guidelines for wearing masks. At the time, they said that fully vaccinated people no longer had to wear masks outdoors unless they were in large numbers. These new recommendations are a step forward in returning to normal.

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