Speed Reads

to mask or not to mask?

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta says vaccinated people can generally go maskless outdoors, with some caveats

There's been some heated discussion about whether it's safe, for you and others, to do outdoor activities without wearing a mask. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is putting together new guidance for vaccinated Americans, CNN's Jake Tapper told chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Thursday evening, but "what does the science say about what the rules should be for people, like us, who are vaccinated?"

Gupta said the research shows that fewer than 10 percent of all infections happen outdoors, and the odds of transmitting COVID-19 indoors is 18.7 precent higher than outdoors. "So keep those in the back of your mind. As a general rule," he said, citing Virginia Tech viral transmission expert Linsey Marr, "if you've been vaccinated and you are not vulnerable, high-risk, you really don't probably need a mask outdoors. But there is some common sense that comes into play here, as well: If you're in a very crowded outdoor setting where you're going to be stationary for a long period of time, and there's high viral transmission in your community — that's something you can check — then that's going to be more of a risk."

As an example of how to weigh the risk and benefits, Gupta and Tapper discussed whether to see Dave Matthews perform outdoors this summer.

"Whether a mask is needed outdoors depends on the circumstances, including local public health rules and whether you and the people you're with are vaccinated," Tara Parker-Pope writes in Thursday's New York Times. "Brief encounters with an unmasked person passing you on the sidewalk or a hiking trail are very low risk," but "if you stop to have an extended conversation with someone who isn't vaccinated, masks are recommended. Even outdoors, your risk of breathing someone else's air increases the longer and closer you stand to them."

Walking the dog, riding a bike, jogging, hiking, and picnicking with members of your household or vaccinated friends are all negligible-risk activities for vaccinated people. Marr follows a "two-out-of-three rule" for public spaces where she isn't sure who has been vaccinated, she told Parker-Pope. "If you're outdoors, you either need to be distanced or masked," she explained. "If you're not outdoors, you need to be distanced and masked."