Two bicyclists make their way down the Santa Barbara waterfront path near Stearns Wharf on Tuesday.
Two bicyclists make their way down the Santa Barbara waterfront path near Stearns Wharf on Tuesday. The CDC released new guidance saying people generally do not need to wear masks outdoors unless they are in crowds.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

People fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear a mask in most outdoor settings, except crowded events, the Centers for Disease Control in Prevention said in new guidance on Tuesday.

The CDC updated its public health recommendations and eased outdoor mask restrictions for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, saying they can safely walk, bike, or run with other members of their household without masks.

Vaccinated people can attend small gatherings outdoors without wearing masks, and unvaccinated individuals can also go to small outdoor gatherings of fully vaccinated friends and family members, according to the CDC. 

“The benefits of reducing social isolation and relaxing some measures such as quarantine requirements may outweigh the residual risk of fully vaccinated people becoming ill with COVID-19 or transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to others,” the CDC said.

“Additionally, taking steps towards relaxing certain measures for vaccinated persons may help improve COVID-19 vaccine acceptance and uptake.”

Individuals are considered fully vaccinated when at least two weeks have passed after they receive the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, or at least two weeks after they receive a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the CDC.

The safest place to visit unvaccinated individuals is outdoors, according to the CDC.

Graphic showing risk assessment for various activities considering COVID-19 transmission and prevention measures

(The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention photo)

With the updated guidance, fully vaccinated individuals can dine at outdoor restaurants with friends from multiple households without a mask. They may also attend small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated family and friends and unvaccinated family and friends without wearing a mask.

Face coverings are still required in outdoor dining areas in Santa Barbara County when not eating or drinking, and in some other businesses and institutions with outdoor operations, according to local public health officer orders. 

Under the new guidance, fully vaccinated people do not need to be restricted from work following a COVID-19 exposure as long as they do not experience symptoms, and fully vaccinated residents of non-healthcare congregate settings no longer need to quarantine following a known exposure, according to the CDC.

Fully vaccinated people who have no symptoms and no known exposure to a COVID-19-positive person may be exempt from routine COVID-19 screening testing if feasible, according to the CDC. 

“Although the risk of COVID-19 infection may be minimal to the fully vaccinated person themselves, vaccinated persons should be mindful of the very low potential risk of transmitting the virus to others if they become infected,” the CDC said.

Vaccinated people and unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks indoors at hair salons, indoor shopping centers or museums, public transportation, movie theaters, full-capacity worship services, indoor restaurants, and when participating in an indoor high-intensity exercise class, according to the CDC.

Everyone should also continue to wear masks while attending a small indoor gathering of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people from multiple households.

Although indoor visits between fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people who do not wear masks or physically distance from one another are likely low risk for the vaccinated individual, the level of precautions taken should be determined by the characteristics of the unvaccinated people who are not yet protected against the virus, according to the CDC.

In indoor public spaces, it is difficult to know the vaccination status of other individuals or whether they are at increased risk for severe disease, the CDC said.

“Therefore, fully vaccinated people should continue to wear a well-fitted mask, cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands often, and follow any applicable workplace or school guidance,” the CDC said.

Certain activities or circumstances can increase the risk of infection even for fully vaccinated people, including moderate-to-high levels of community transmission, indoor visits in settings with poor ventilation, crowded spaces with decreased ability to maintain physical distance, and activities that involve singing, shouting, physical exertion, or heavy breathing, according to the CDC.

Click here for more guidance on what you can do once you’re fully vaccinated.

Tier Status Update and Daily COVID Numbers

Santa Barbara County remained in the orange tier for the second week following Tuesday’s tier assessment.

The county reported a 3.6 adjusted case rate, a 1.5% testing positivity rate, and a 1.9% health equity testing positivity rate.

The adjusted case rate and the testing positivity rate both decreased since last week’s tier assignment.

San Luis Obispo County moved to the orange tier of the state reopening system Tuesday, joining Santa Barbara County and the rest of the Central Coast. 

Santa Barbara County’s orange-tier-level restrictions, which allow more than the previous red tier, went into effect last Wednesday morning. 

More indoor activities are allowed in the less-restrictive orange tier, including wine tasting rooms

Santa Barbara County Public Health officials reported 28 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, but no additional fatalities.

The county’s cumulative COVID-19 death toll remained at 448 for the fourth day in a row.

There have been 175 cases reported in Santa Barbara County over the last week, averaging 25 new cases per day, according to data tracking done by Noozhawk.

COVID-19 hospitalizations edged up slightly, and there were 11 patients being treated for the virus as on Tuesday, including one in an intensive-care unit. COVID-19 patients only occupy 1.3% of the county’s 76 available staffed ICU beds.

Isla Vista and the Goleta Valley each reported six new cases of the virus on Tuesday. Santa Barbara reported four new cases, the Santa Maria Valley logged three, and the Santa Ynez Valley and Lompoc Valley each tallied two new cases. The Montecito-Summerland-Carpinteria area reported one new case, and four cases were still pending geographic location.

There are 164 cases still considered infectious throughout the county, and there have been 34,099 confirmed cases since the pandemic began.

Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.