Joe Biden has told fully vaccinated Americans they can go outdoors without a face mask, except in big crowds, as he attempts to steer a lockdown-weary nation back towards normality.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the president used the bully pulpit of the White House to assure the public science shows the risk of coronavirus infection is very low for vaccinated people in outdoor spaces.
“Starting today, if you’re fully vaccinated and you’re outdoors and not in a big crowd, you no longer need to wear a mask,” said Biden, beside a tree and lawn, in warm spring sunshine.
“I want to be absolutely clear. If you’re in a crowd, like a stadium or at a conference or a concert, you still need to wear a mask, even if you’re outside. But beginning today, gathering with a group of friends in a park, going for a picnic as long as you are vaccinated and outdoors, you can do it without a mask.”
“The CDC is able to make this announcement because our scientists are convinced by the data that the odds of getting or giving the virus to others is very, very low if you’re both fully vaccinated and out in the open air.”
Biden also hailed the “stunning progress” the US has made against the virus since he took office on 20 January, with 215m vaccine shots administered and cases and deaths “down dramatically”. Two thirds of elderly people are now fully vaccinated, he said, resulting in an 80% drop in deaths and 70% drop in hospitalisations among that group.