CDC releases new COVID-19 guidelines for vaccinated people
ATLANTA - The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that people who have been vaccinated for the coronavirus can gather with those who are at low risk for COVID-19 without masks, but they should still cover their faces in public.
The nation’s health experts, political and business leaders, and everyday Americans have been waiting on the CDC’s new guidelines on safe activities for people who have been vaccinated and when they can return to normal life.
The new guidelines include recommendations for how and when a fully vaccinated individual can visit with other people who are fully vaccinated and with other people who are not vaccinated. The agency said the guidelines are “a first step toward returning to everyday activities in our communities.”
While President Joe Biden is set to make his first nationally televised prime-time address Thursday - the topic is the coronavirus - the White House said Monday it was not consulted on the new guidelines.
“We know that people want to get vaccinated so they can get back to doing the things they enjoy with the people they love,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky. “There are some activities that fully vaccinated people can begin to resume now in their own homes. Everyone - even those who are vaccinated - should continue with all mitigation strategies when in public settings. As the science evolves and more people get vaccinated, we will continue to provide more guidance to help fully vaccinated people safely resume more activities.”
The CDC said fully vaccinated people can do the following:
- Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or staying 6 feet apart.
- Visit with unvaccinated people from one other household indoors without wearing masks or staying 6 feet apart if everyone in the other household is at low risk for severe disease.
- Refrain from quarantine and testing if they do not have symptoms of COVID-19 after contact with someone who has COVID-19.
A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose of vaccine. Although vaccinations are accelerating, the CDC estimates that 9.2% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine that the FDA has authorized for emergency use.
While the new guidance is a positive step, most people need to be fully vaccinated before COVID-19 precautions can be lifted broadly. Until then, it is important that everyone continue to adhere to public health mitigation measures to protect the large number of people who remain unvaccinated.
The agency is still recommending fully vaccinated people continue to take COVID-19 precautions when in public, when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple other households, and when around unvaccinated people who are at high risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19:
- Wear a well-fitted mask.
- Stay at least 6 feet from people you do not live with.
- 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.
Last week, Walensky, Biden’s top health adviser, previewed the upcoming guidelines at a news conference with reporters.
“I use the example of a daughter coming in from out of town who is doubly vaccinated, and a husband and wife doubly vaccinated, and maybe a next-door neighbor who you know are doubly vaccinated,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, as reported by Politico. “Small gatherings in the home of people, I think you can clearly feel that the risk - the relative risk is so low that you would not have to wear a mask, that you could have a good social gathering within the home.”
Walensky is still urging caution, leading to speculation the new CDC recommendations may disappoint those hoping the increasing pace of inoculations would allow some common restrictions to be relaxed for those vaccinated.
“I want to really keep our eye on the fact that cases are increasing right now, slightly. The goal is not to sort of open up travel, open up all things because … we’re scaling up vaccination. The goal in those first 100 days has always been to sort of make sure that we are in a place to be out of this pandemic,” Walensky said. “At 70,000 cases per day, we’re not in that place right now.”
Last week, Fauci said he was hoping the recommendations would be released before the end of February.
Over the last several weeks, Walensky has been warning the emergence of new variants and increased transmission could threaten the progress the country has made during the last month with decreased hospitalizations, cases and deaths.
In a recent interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association, Walensky said she hoped for the best but also warned of a worst-case scenario - that people will stop wearing masks and physically distancing too early and that many will prematurely declare they’ve had enough of the pandemic and won’t get vaccinated.
“What worries me a little bit is when you hit September, and then it gets colder again, and there may be a variant that emerges,” and people stop wearing masks and physically distancing, Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told The New York Times last week.
On Feb. 10, the CDC said those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID can skip quarantine if they are exposed to someone infected with the virus. “Fully vaccinated persons who meet criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19,” the CDC said in updates to its web page.
On Feb. 22, the U.S. passed the somber milestone of 500,000 coronavirus deaths.