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CDC director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images

The CDC announced in new guidance Thursday that anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, regardless of crowd size.

What they're saying: "If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic," CDC director Rochelle Walensky will say at a White House press briefing.

Caveats: The guidance does not apply to those traveling on planes or public transit, health care settings, correctional facilities or homeless shelters.

  • Masks should still be worn to abide by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial guidance, including local businesses and workplaces, the CDC said.
  • Vaccinated people traveling from other countries to the U.S. still need a negative COVID test prior to their trip or proof of previous COVID infection in the past three months.

Between the lines: News reports this past week have pointed to public health experts' critiques of the agency's "overly cautious" guidance, which some say has not accounted for scientific findings that could change public attitudes and behaviors.

The CDC responded to the criticism Thursday, saying: "We have a responsibility to make recommendations based on a body of evidence and what the science tells us." The agency noted that it can now say with confidence:

  1. The vaccines work in the real world.
  2. The vaccines stand up to the variants.
  3. Vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the virus.

The bottom line: "We needed to take the time to review the full body of evidence to get this right, and that's how we came to this decision," the CDC said.

The big picture: Cases have continued to fall dramatically, and deaths from the coronavirus are at their lowest level since last July.

  • A majority of states have already entered a new phase in lifting mask mandates and other public health measures. Government officials have endorsed allowing individuals to assess their own personal risk of the virus.
  • More studies have further confirmed the growing amount of evidence that vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the virus to others.

Go deeper: America is finally winning its fight against the coronavirus

Go deeper

22 hours ago - Health

European Union surpasses the U.S. in COVID-19 vaccinations

A line of people wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències de Valencia, on July 28, 2021. Photo: Rober Solsona/Europa Press via Getty Images

The member states of the European Union together have administered more coronavirus vaccine doses per 100 people than the United States, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The new figures highlight the pace at which the 27 member states of the E.U. are vaccinating their citizens, and stand in stark contrast to the speed of vaccinations in the U.S., which has stagnated.

Colorado shirks mask, vaccine requirements as others take action

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When it comes to COVID-19 in Colorado, the state says you're essentially on your own.

Federal, state and local governments across the country are embracing mask requirements or mandatory coronavirus vaccinations.

  • But so far Colorado leaders are not following suit.
Jul 29, 2021 - Health

The billion-dollar COVID booster discussion

A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine could add billions of dollars in extra revenue for Pfizer. Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pfizer said yesterday that it expects to sell nearly $34 billion worth of coronavirus vaccines this year — and there could be billions more behind that, if people who have gotten the shot ultimately need boosters.

Why it matters: It's unclear whether, when and for whom a coronavirus vaccine booster will be necessary. Pfizer has a lot of money riding on those answers, and executives are already making the case that many Americans will need a third dose.