TAMPA, Fla. - With more than half of all adults in the U.S. having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is loosening guidelines on who needs to wear a mask and where.
The CDC announced Tuesday that vaccinated adults don't need a face covering for activities like dining outdoors at restaurants.
It's a welcome change for so many who are ready for that taste of normalcy. Health experts hope the updated guidelines help those who are fully vaccinated to get back to some of their old routines safely -- while encouraging others to finally get the shot so they can do the same.
For some, masks have become a part of life.
"I have my grandparents at home, so we have been taking care of a lot," said Camila Castro of Tampa.
For others, the masks are less of a priority.
"I'm living my life, riding my motorcycle across the United States," said Eric Torres of New Tampa.
According to the CDC's updated mask guidelines, fully vaccinated adults may go maskless while walking, running or biking outdoors with members of their own household, while attending small outdoor gatherings with a mix of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and while dining at outdoor restaurants.
Under the new guidelines, even those who aren't vaccinated can go outside without masks in limited situations such as small gatherings with fully vaccinated people.
Shot or not, the CDC says everyone should still wear a mask at crowded, outdoor events like a concert.
Indoors, the risk levels are lower for activities like getting a haircut, seeing a movie, or attending a full-capacity worship service for those who are both vaccinated and masked.
"Basically, everything that you would want to do indoors, if you're wearing the mask, is now almost perfectly safe," said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, Distinguished Health Professor at the University of South Florida. "I think that is a really great thing. Moving forward, it's basically telling us, as we get vaccinated, we can really start getting our lives back."
Still, Dr. Unnasch cautioned that there's a reason why even those who are vaccinated should mask up in certain situations.
"We really don't know quite yet what the rate of breakthrough infections are going to be for vaccinated people, and whether we're going to see asymptomatic infections in vaccinated people that will be able to infect other people," said Unnasch.
President Joe Biden said on Tuesday, he hopes the change encourages more to get the shot.
"If you're vaccinated, you can do more things more safely, both outdoors as well as indoors," Biden said.
Regarding the updates, Torres said, "I haven't changed my mind. I've been out and about from day one."
Castro said, "I am very happy to hear that. But I do feel that it is important that we still take care and if we are going to be in a big setting with a lot of people, still wearing masks."
While President Biden said there's a lot of work to be done in May and June, he set the 4th of July as the target date for when Americans can gather to celebrate safely.