It's a question that has been popping up more and more lately as the vaccine rollout continues: How much longer will masks need to be worn, especially outside? As more and more people get vaccinated, some experts say the time to make a change could be soon.
On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hinted that mask rules could be relaxed by the end of June. He doubled down on that Thursday, saying, "We want to hold the line through June. After that, we'll be able to reassess."
Connecticut is lifting the mask mandate there a month even before that. At a park in Stamford Wednesday afternoon, many visitors were spread throughout — not wearing masks. An infectious disease expert told NBC New York that as long as there is no close contact, that may be the acceptable thing to do from now on.
"If you're going for a jog in your neighborhood and you're not going to be around a crowd of other joggers, that's OK not to wear a mask," said Dr. Asha Shah, the associate director of infectious diseases for Stamford Health. She echoed the CDC in saying that masks may not be necessary outdoors, as long as people are six feet apart.
However, Dr. Shah said that masks should still be worn for things like grocery shopping and running errands indoors. She points out that COVID numbers in Connecticut are stable at the moment — not going down.
"If you're going to a business, going to to a grocery store, for example, those are important times to continue masking regardless of your vaccination status," Dr. Shah said.
The state is getting ready to lift all COVID restrictions on May 19, with masks not being required outdoor since the risk is considered minimal. Dr. Shah said she's not so sure about that plan.
"I'm a little nervous about it. And I think that we need to proceed with caution because how we do things and the safety measures we follow in the several weeks will really impact how the summer looks," she said.
New York and New Jersey have not stated any date for when COVID restrictions and mask-wearing mandates might come to an end. Nationwide, 24 states either never had or no longer have mask requirements in public places, with Connecticut joining that list in May. Although the CDC said masks weren't necessary outdoors, they do encourage people carry one with them at all times, in case it becomes necessary.