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The federal health agency laid out long-awaited guidelines for what Americans can do once they are fully vaccinated, though the CDC said they still need to wear masks in public

By Julie Mazziotta
March 08, 2021 02:35 PM
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Fully vaccinated people can start to socialize and return to some semblance of a pre-pandemic normal, the Centers for Disease Control said Monday as they released long-awaited guidelines for post-vaccination life.

Once people have received all of their COVID-19 vaccine doses and waited two weeks to build their full immune response, they can safely hang out indoors, unmasked and without distancing, with other fully vaccinated people, or unvaccinated people who have a low risk of severe disease.

The new guidelines mean that families can now visit grandparents and elderly adults who have been fully vaccinated without distancing or wearing a mask, as long as they are not at a high risk of severe COVID-19 illness, without worrying about getting them sick for the first time in a year. However, they should keep visits to a single household, the CDC said, meaning a grandmother's daughter and her family should not visit at the same time as the unvaccinated neighbors next door, for example.

Friends eating healthy at home
Stock photo
| Credit: Getty

Fully vaccinated people, though, should still wear masks out in public, distance from others and keep up COVID health precautions, the CDC said, to protect unvaccinated people at a high risk of severe illness in case they can asymptomatically transmit the disease.

"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. "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."

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Walensky also said that the CDC will not yet be changing their travel guidelines, which say that people should avoid nonessential trips, even if they are vaccinated, due to the past increases in cases after travel surges and the new variants that have come into the U.S. through international travel. The travel guidance also applies to vaccinated people who want to travel to see grandparents, Walensky said in response to a reporter's question during her briefing on the new guidelines.

"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 CDC also acknowledged that just a small portion of Americans ­— 9.2% — are fully vaccinated right now with one of the three approved vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout by State
Percentage of people in each state that have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
| Credit: Martin Schwartz/PEOPLE

"While the new guidance is a positive step, the vast majority of people need to be fully vaccinated before COVID-19 precautions can be lifted broadly," the federal health agency said. "Until then, it is important that everyone continues to adhere to public health mitigation measures to protect the large number of people who remain unvaccinated."

Vaccinations have significantly picked up in the U.S. over the last few weeks, with an average of 2.1 million doses going into Americans each day, far above the rate from January of around 1 million. And though just 9.2% of Americans are fully vaccinated, 17.7% have received at least one dose of a vaccine.