In this file photo taken on February 13, 2021, people wearing face masks play pool at Cheswick's West bar in Ocean Beach in San Diego, California Photograph:( AFP )
According to the CDC's website, masks may still be required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in US transportation hubs such as airports and stations
US President Joe Biden celebrated new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday that said fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places.
"I think it's a great milestone, a great day," Biden told reporters from the White House rose garden.
"If you're fully vaccinated and can take your mask off, you've earned the right to do something that Americans are known for all around the world: greeting others with a smile," he said, flashing a brief smile himself.
Biden described the new milestone as a major victory in the battle against the virus that has caused more than 580,000 Americans to die.
The CDC move sparked joyful reactions in some, but others experienced whiplash and said they would continue to wear their masks out of caution.
"I'm still going to wear a mask inside," said Mubarak Dahir, a 57-year-old tourist in the capital Washington who was visiting from Florida. "I think it's premature, it's a little dangerous to believe that we are that far already."
But Desmond, a 67-year-old in Lafayette Square, said: "It's great news... we have come a long way in 14 months!"
Accumulating data shows the extremely high efficacy of authorised vaccines, not just to prevent symptomatic Covid but also asymptomatic infection and onward transmission.
Almost 60 per cent of US adults now have one or more doses, while cases are falling fast, down to a seven-day-average of 38,000 or 11 per 100,000.
And on Thursday, the campaign to vaccinate adolescents aged 12 to 15 began in earnest following the authorisation of the Pfizer vaccine in this age group.
According to the CDC's website, masks may still be required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in US transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
Fully vaccinated international travelers arriving in the United States still need to get tested within three days of their flight, or show documentation of recovery from Covid-19 in the past three months.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the new guidance just two weeks after its most recent update, was based on a sharp reduction in cases, expansion of vaccines to younger people and vaccine efficacy against coronavirus variants.
The CDC had faced criticism, even from public health officials, that it has been too cautious in its guidance. Critics have said people need to see more benefit of getting vaccinated in terms of returning to normal activities.
(With inputs from agencies)