CDC says Americans can unmask in outdoor areas of public transit

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Fully vaccinated Americans are safe to no longer wear masks in outdoor sections of public transit and other major travel hub areas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Thursday.

The new guidance comes as many COVID-19 restrictions and mask mandates begin to fade as the pandemic nears its end. 

However, the federal agency still recommends for unvaccinated individuals to wear masks while in these areas.

Last month, the CDC announced that people vaccinated against COVID-19 could  unmask outdoors and in most indoor settings due to the efficacy of vaccines and in the hopes of convincing unvaccinated Americans to get the shot so they could enjoy the same freedoms. 

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While CDC guidelines are non-binding, their recommendations often inform policy decisions made by state and local leaders.

Currently, the CDC issues special guidelines for vaccinated people in areas like transit hubs as there are usually a large number of people interacting with each other in an enclosed environment, even when outside.

'While those who are fully vaccinated may resume many activities without wearing a mask, the travel environment presents a unique set of circumstances based on the number and close interaction of travelers (both vaccinated and unvaccinated),' the CDC said in a statement of the new guidance. 

Transit hubs include airports and train stations, among others. 

Transmission of COVID in outdoor areas is rare, and some even estimate that as low as 0.1 percent of COVID transmissions in the U.S. have occurred outdoors. 

The CDC's last guidance was met with criticism from many health officials, including Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert.

In May, many said the agency's guidance on allowing vaccinated people to unmask indoors was confusing, and could be misinterpreted as the universal ditching of masks.

Some states in America have already ditched masks, though.

In Texas, almost all COVID-19 related restrictions and mask mandates were lifted in March.

The state's COVID cases actually began to decrease after the mandates were lifted, though some areas of the state are seeing cases begin to rise once again. 

Many other states like Florida, Georgia, Maryland and Colorado have ditched mask mandates in recent weeks, though they still do recommend masks to be worn in certain environments. 

Despite local laws, individual businesses are allowed to require masks inside of their establishments.  

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Masks are also still required on public transit in many of these states, as it is expected that transit systems will be among the last places that will return to normal post-pandemic. 

A study by Chinese researchers in October found that public transit could be a source of COVID outbreaks if people are not socially distanced or wearing masks. 

COVID-19 mandates are rolling back across the country as case rates continue to fall in the United States.

As the vaccine becomes more prevalent - more than 60 percent of American adults have received at least one shot -  even the most strictest of states like New York and Michigan have set targets to reopen in the near future.

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CDC says Americans can unmask in outdoor areas of public transit