Understanding the CDC Update to Social Distancing & Mask Guidelines

May 18, 2021

Clarification on Updated Guidelines – May 17, 2021

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, PhD clarified the update:

“If you are vaccinated against COVID-19, you are safe. The vaccines work. You can take off your mask & are not at risk of severe disease or hospitalization. If you are not vaccinated, you are not safe. Please get vaccinated or continue to wear a mask.”

CDC Update – May 16, 2021

When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated | CDC

The CDC released updated guidelines to choosing safer activities for people who are fully vaccinated. We break it down below.

If you’re fully vaccinated–meaning it has been at least two weeks since your last vaccine shot–FOR NOW, you are relatively safe to do the following:

  • Gather indoors/outdoors with no mask or social distancing
  • Resume normal activities

Travel-related guidelines:

  • US: COVID testing & self-quarantine is not required
  • International: 
    • Pretesting not required UNLESS destination requires it
    • Negative test required before returning to US
    • You SHOULD get tested 3-5 days after international travel
    • Self-quarantine after return to US is not required

You still have to comply with local ordinances, regulations, and business or workplace guidance. These guidelines apply to your personal activities only. 

What does this mean for me?

If you are vaccinated, you should remain careful and cautious. We are still learning about how effective vaccines are against COVID mutant variants and how long the vaccines are protective. The CDC advises to still watch out for COVID-19 symptoms, and recommend testing and isolation if you have symptoms. 

If you have an immune disorder or are taking meds that weaken your immune system, please consult with your physician before giving up your mask.

For unvaccinated people, it is not safe to stop wearing your mask.

For our communities

The news from the CDC is hopeful. It means the vaccine is working. If you haven’t registered yet, find a vaccine in your state or territory here. However, black & brown people make up a large part of the unvaccinated population. Considering the disproportionate impact of the pandemic to BIPOC communities in terms of infection rates, hospitalizations, deaths, and lagging vaccination progress, we cannot afford to be hasty with relaxing our pandemic safety practices. 

We urge people to continue to wear their masks until we get closer to herd immunity & the most vulnerable populations have made more progress in vaccine administrations.