Allison Aubrey, Rachel Treisman
The CDC has issued new guidance for vaccinated people, giving the green-light to resume some pre-pandemic activities and relax precautions that have been in place.
Specifically, people who are fully vaccinated can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks or social distancing. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they have gotten the second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines (or two weeks after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine).
Vaccinated people can also gather, unmasked, with people from another household who are not yet vaccinated, as long as those people are at low risk of serious illness from the virus. However, the agency said, vaccinated people should continue to mask when they're in public, avoid crowds and take other precautions when gathering with unvaccinated people who are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
The new guidance also allows fully vaccinated individuals to forego testing and quarantining following a known COVID-19 exposure, as long as they are not experiencing symptoms.
The CDC said this new guidance is a "first step" to returning to everyday activities. There's accumulating evidence to show that people who are fully vaccinated are less likely to become infected and also "potentially" less likely to spread the virus to others, agency officials wrote in a press release.
"We know that people want to get vaccinated so they can get back to doing the things they enjoy with the people they love," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement on the new guidelines.
The new guidance is specific to freedoms that vaccinated people can resume in their own homes, but the agency warns that everyone – even those who are vaccinated – should continue to follow recommended guidelines in public settings, including masking.
The CDC is not updating its travel guidance at this time, Walensky said at a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing on Monday. She stressed that everyone should continue to avoid nonessential trips, regardless of vaccination status. The CDC director cited previous spikes in case counts after surges in travel and the emergence of variants from international locations.
Existing travel guidance still applies in the case of fully vaccinated grandparents who are hoping to visit their low-risk family members, Walensky said in response to a reporter's question.
"We would like to give the opportunity to vaccinated grandparents to visit their grandchildren and children who are healthy and who are local, but our travel guidance currently has been unchanged," she said.
The three available vaccines have been proven to protect against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19, Walensky added. But she said there is still a small risk that vaccinated people could become infected with mild or asymptomatic disease and potentially even pass it on to others who are not vaccinated. She said this remains an ongoing area of research.
Walensky said this is the first round of guidance, but more will follow as the science evolves and more people are fully vaccinated.
"We believe these recommendations are an important first step in our efforts to resume everyday activities in our communities," she said. "However, we remain in the midst of a serious pandemic, and still over 90% of our population is not fully vaccinated, though we are working hard to get there."
The Biden administration is working to scale up vaccine manufacturing and distribution, and announced last week that the country will have enough supply for every adult by the end of May.
The country's seven-day average of daily vaccinations is nearly 2.2 million, and a record-breaking 2.9 million doses were administered on Saturday, according to Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser on the White House COVID-19 Response Team.
Walensky said that as of Monday, about 59 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. And about 31 million people — or 9.2% of the U.S. population — are fully vaccinated.
Here's the CDC's specific guidance for what fully vaccinated people can do:
- "Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing;
- "Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
- "Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure to COVID-19 if asymptomatic"
The CDC said fully vaccinated people should continue to take these COVID-19 precautions:
- "Take precautions in public like wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing
- "Wear masks, practice physical distancing, and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease
- "Wear masks, maintain physical distance, and practice other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households
- "Avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings
- "Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
- "Follow guidance issued by individual employers
- "Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations"
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