Washington: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will no longer recommend masks for Americans, who have been fully-vaccinated against Covid-19, indoors or outdoors, including in crowds, according to its new guidance.
"Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told a White House briefing on Thursday.
"If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.
"We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy," Xinhua news agency quoted Walensky as further saying.
The mask mandate was cancelled after Walensky faced criticism for the CDC being too slow to provide a path back to normalcy for fully vaccinated people.
She has defended the CDC's approach as scientifically-based to ensure protection not just for individuals but also the entire American population.
There have been reports of "breakthrough" infections among vaccinated people in the US.
Walensky noted that "the resulting infection is more likely to have a lower viral load, may be shorter in duration, and likely less risk of transmission to others".
Meanwhile, the requirement to wear masks during travel, on buses, trains, planes and public transportation, still stands, Walensky said, and the guidance for travel will be updated as science emerges.
Even vaccinated individuals must cover their faces and physically distance when going to doctors, hospitals or long-term care facilities like nursing homes.
"The past year has shown us that this virus can be unpredictable, so if things get worse, there is always a chance we may need to make a change to these recommendations," she added.
According to official figures, about 154 million people in the US have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, but only about one-third of the nation, some 117.6 million people, have been fully inoculated.