CDC eases summer camp Covid guidance, says fully vaccinated teens don’t need masks

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its public health guidance for summer camps Friday, saying fully vaccinated teens don’t need to wear face masks or stay 6 feet away from others.

Fully vaccinated teens should still wear masks where required, including at local businesses and workplaces, according to the CDC. Camps can be supportive of staff or campers who choose to continue to wear a mask even if vaccinated, the agency added.

While unvaccinated teens should continue to wear masks, the CDC said they generally do not need to wear masks when outdoors unless they are in an area with “substantial to high transmission,” in a crowded setting or attending activities that involve sustained close contact with others.

The new guidance from the CDC comes ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the start of summer vacations and camping season for many Americans.

On Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told House lawmakers that the agency was revising its public health guidance for summer camps to account for vaccinated teens. Walensky cleared the expanded use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds two weeks ago.

As of Thursday, more than 165 million Americans ages 12 and older have had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, according to data compiled by the CDC. More than 132 million Americans age 12 and up are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

The previous guidance from the CDC recommended that all kids, regardless of vaccinations, wear masks, with some exceptions for certain activities such as eating, drinking or swimming. It had been criticized by some public health experts and parents who say the risk of spreading Covid is low in outdoor settings and kids have a lower risk of severe illness.

“My whole goal is to make sure camps can remain open and that outbreaks don’t occur,” Walensky said during the hearing. She added that her own children did not go to camps last summer. “I want camps to be open this summer.”

The guidance also comes two weeks after the CDC said fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a face mask or stay 6 feet away from others in most settings, whether outdoors or indoors. Unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks, the agency said, as they remain at risk of mild or severe illness, death and risk of spreading the disease to others.

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