Do You Still Need to Wear a Mask Outdoors?

Ralph Ellis

April 23, 2021

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, says the agency may revise its guidance on whether people should wear face masks outside.

"We'll be looking at the outdoor masking question, but also in the context of the fact that we still have people who are dying of COVID-19," she said on NBC's Today show.

Current CDC guidance, which was updated April 9, says: "Masks may not be necessary when you are outside by yourself away from others, or with people who live in your household. However, some areas may have mask mandates while out in public, so please check the rules in your local area (such as in your city, county, or state). Additionally, check whether any federal mask mandates apply to where you will be going."

Most health experts say masks are still a good idea when people gather outdoors in large groups. People attending sporting events are still required to wear masks, even in outdoor stadiums, except when eating or drinking.

Texas has already lifted mask restrictions, though businesses can still require them. NBC News said that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper hopes to lift an outdoor mask mandate by June 1 and that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is considering a change to outdoor mask guidance. Connecticut will end outdoor mask requirements in mid-May and will make indoor masks recommended but not required.

Many health experts say people generally don’t need masks outdoors now because there is little virus transmission outdoors.

Sanjay Gupta, MD, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, talked about masks Thursday on New Day. If you're vaccinated, "I'd say for the most part, you don't need to wear a mask outdoors," he said.

Ashish Jha, MD, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told NBC News:

"At this point in the pandemic, with more than half of Americans vaccinated, it's pretty reasonable to start thinking about peeling back outdoor mask mandates. …Requiring everybody walking down the street to wear one is probably not needed."

Kristin Nelson, PhD, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, told NBC News that outdoor mask rules made sense during the height of the pandemic, but not so much now that vaccinations are rising.

"I think those mass mandates in outdoor spaces should probably be the first to go," she said. "We really need to focus on places we know are at high risk for a transmission, like large gatherings and closed spaces with poor ventilation."


Today: "CDC director: We’re 'looking at’ whether it’s still necessary to wear a mask outdoors."

CDC: "Guidance for Wearing Masks."

NBC News: "Is it still necessary to wear masks outdoors? CDC 'looking at' revising mask guidance."

CNN: "Do we still need to wear a mask outdoors?"