COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed around the United States, and President Biden has indicated that the U.S. could have enough vaccines for every adult by May.
As the situation with the pandemic has developed, face mask recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have changed. In light of the vaccine distribution and evolving science, the CDC has now issued new public health recommendations regarding face masks for those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Earlier today, Axios shared a 5-page document entitled “Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People” from the CDC. Before we get into the updated recommendations — let’s break down who the CDC considers to be “fully vaccinated.”
According to the document, people are considered to be “fully vaccinated for COVID-19” 2 weeks or more after they’ve received the 2nd dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or the Moderna vaccine. People are also considered to be “fully vaccinated” 2 weeks or more after they have received a single dose of the Johnson and Johnson(J&J)/Janseen vaccine.
Okay, so if someone falls into those categories and considered to be “fully vaccinated” what does the CDC say they can now do?
Well, the CDC’s guidance says that fully vaccinated individuals can actually “visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.” Specifically, the CDC’s guidance notes that indoor visits between fully vaccinated people who don’t wear masks or physically distance is likely low risk. As an example, they say it’s low risk for fully vaccinated individuals to have dinner together inside a private residence.
Fully vaccinated people can also “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.” As an example, the CDC says that fully vaccinated grandparents can visit indoors with their unvaccinated, healthy daughter and her healthy kids without wearing masks or physically distancing — provided none of the unvaccinated family members are at risk of severe COVID-19.
Fully vaccinated people, under the CDC’s updated guidance, would also be able to “refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure [to COVID19] if [they are] asymptomatic.”
The CDC says that fully vaccinated people should, however, still continue to do the following:
- Take precautions in public, like wearing a well-fitted mask, social distancing, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated areas, and more
- Wear masks, socially distance, and practice other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease
- Wear masks, physically distance, and use other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households
- Avoid medium and large in-person gatherings
- Watch for symptoms of COVID-19, and isolate and get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
- Follow guidance from individual employers
- Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations
So, why has there been a change in recommendations and why are fully vaccinated people now able to do certain things without a mask? Well, the CDC’s guidance document notes that the currently approved vaccines are “highly effective at protecting vaccinated people against symptomatic and severe COVID-19.”
Also, a “growing body of evidence” now indicates that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have a COVID-19 infection without symptoms and potentially less likely to transmit COVID-19 to others.
But, the CDC cautions that how long vaccine protection lasts and how much the vaccines prevent against the COVID-19 variants is still under investigation. So, until more is known about that and until vaccine coverage increases, some prevention measures continue to be necessary for all people, even those who are fully vaccinated.
But, the CDC has said that there are some activities that fully vaccinated people can do now that are at low risk to themselves while still being mindful of potential risk of transmitting the virus to others.
The guidance notes specific examples and gives explanations depending on the type of gathering, and the situation with those who are unvaccinated which the vaccinated individual may be meeting with. You can read the full guidance here.
The CDC’s guidance notes that it will continue to evaluate and update its recommendations for vaccinated individuals as more information becomes available.
As a reminder, face masks are still required in Disney World for all guests ages 2 and older. Masks can only be removed when actively eating or drinking while stationary and physically distanced from others; while in certain areas in the Disney water parks; while swimming in the pools at the hotels; or while in a mask relaxation zone.
We’ll continue to keep you updated as we see any more new information on mask recommendations.
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