Fully vaccinated Americans can stop wearing a face mask in most indoor and outdoor settings, top US health officials have advised.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that physical distancing is also no longer necessary.
The latest guidance comes as rates of vaccinations begin to slow, as about 35% of Americans are now fully vaccinated.
Experts say the change could herald a “return to normalcy”, which they hope will encourage more people to get the jab.
However, many worry the change will have the opposite effect, with the unvaccinated thinking there is no longer any need to get the shot. Proof of vaccination will also become more contentious, say analysts.
CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said on Thursday at the White House: “Today, CDC is updating our guidance for fully vaccinated people.
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things you have stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”
The guidance does not apply to health care facilities or places such as prisons and homeless shelters. Masks are also still advised for planes and other public transport.
The CDC’s guidance does not supersede local ordinances, and some businesses may still require customers and workers to wear masks.
Walensky said that immunocompromised people may want to consider continuing to wear a mask outdoors.
The guidance does not apply to un-vaccinated Americans, and people who experience Covid-19 symptoms should resume using a mask.
In another sign the pandemic is on the wane, the president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers union called on Thursday for schools to fully reopen in the autumn.