A version of this story appeared in CNN’s What Matters newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
(CNN)People who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 can safely enjoy a much more open lifestyle, although still a far cry from what was normal a year ago, according to new and much-anticipated guidance released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 10% of the US population — 30 million people! — is now fully vaccinated and millions more Americans are getting the shot every day.
Grandparents, among the the first in line to get vaccinated, want to know when they can see their grandkids, who aren’t yet able to be vaccinated.
Here’s what the CDC has to say about that. Most of what’s below is taken almost verbatim from Jen Christensen’s CNN report:
Things will not snap back to normal all at once. The CDC was clear in releasing the guidelines that they’ll change as more people get vaccinated.
“Covid-19 continues to exert a tremendous toll on our nation. Like you, I want to be able to return to everyday activities and engage with our friends, families, and communities,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at the White House briefing Monday. “Science, and the protection of public health must guide us as we begin to resume these activities. Today’s action represents an important first step. It is not our final destination.”
When are you fully vaccinated? The CDC defines people who are fully vaccinated as those who are two weeks past their second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines or two weeks past a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. There is growing evidence that people who are vaccinated don’t spread Covid-19, but scientists are still trying to understand how long vaccine protection lasts.
What can fully vaccinated people now do?
- Visit other vaccinated people indoors without masks or physical distancing.
- Visit indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household without masks or physical distancing, if the unvaccinated people are at low risk for severe disease.
- Skip quarantine and testing if exposed to someone who has Covid-19 but are asymptomatic, but should monitor for symptoms for 14 days.
Eat a meal with friends? And if you’re vaccinated, you can also have dinner with your vaccinated friends.
Should you go to the gym or a restaurant? The guidelines say that the risk of infection in social activities like going to the gym or restaurant is lower for those who are fully vaccinated. However, people should still take precautions, as transmission risk in these settings is higher and increases the more unvaccinated people are involved. So wear that mask on the treadmill, and if dining out, keep it on while waiting for your meal.
And yes, vaccinated people can feel more comfortable hugging their grandkids. That’s especially true if they’re local — the CDC still says people should avoid travel — and as long as none of the unvaccinated people in either household are at risk for severe Covid-19.
What if you have to fly across the country? In the new guidance, the CDC notes its travel recommendations have not changed: The CDC says people should delay travel and stay home. “Every time there’s a surge in travel, we have a surge of cases in this country,” Walensky said.
“We’re hopeful that our next set of guidance, will have more science around what vaccinated people can do, perhaps travel being among them.”
The airline industry pushed back on that and argued flying is safe. Read their logic here.
What should vaccinated people not change? Almost all of our new pandemic habits should continue, the CDC says.
- Wear a mask and keep good physical distance around the unvaccinated who are at increased risk for severe Covid-19, or if the unvaccinated person has a household member who is at higher risk.
- Wear masks and physically distance when visiting unvaccinated people who are from multiple households.
- Keep physical distance in public.
- Avoid medium- and large-sized crowds.
- Avoid poorly ventilated public spaces.
- Wash hands frequently.
- Get tested for Covid-19 if you feel sick.
Remember, Covid is not gone. The United States still averaged more than 60,000 cases per day over the last seven days, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“We continue to have high levels of virus around the country, and more readily transmissible variants have now been confirmed in nearly every state, while we work to quickly vaccinate people more and more each day, we have to see this through,” Walensky said Monday. “Let’s stick together. Please keep wearing a well-fitting mask and taking the other public health actions we know work to help stop the spread of this virus.”
And US confidence in vaccines is being attacked. This allegation by the US State Department that online platforms directed by Russian intelligence are working to undercut Americans’ faith in the vaccines will send you into a white hot rage.
To mandate or not to mandate
CDC guidelines are one thing. What states require of their citizens is very different and changing every day. And at least 15 states — representing 30% of the country — don’t require face masks.
Officials scrambled to discourage end-of-mask parties at bars, like the Concrete Cowboy in Houston, which plans a special event for Wednesday when Texas goes mask optional. One Jewish conservative group in Dallas is planning an event that will include a bonfire for their masks.
In danger of a new surge just as restrictions ease. Experts are very worried that the easing of restrictions will encourage people to cut loose and another spike, fueled by the Covid variants, will follow. From CNN’s report:
“Let me just say we are in the eye of the hurricane right now,” Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
The spike will be fueled by the B.1.1.7 variant, first spotted in the United Kingdom, and will come over the next six to 14 weeks, Osterholm said.
“Four weeks ago, the B.1.1.7 variant made up about 1 to 4% of the virus that we were seeing in communities across the country. Today, it’s up to 30 to 40%,” he said. “What we’ve seen in Europe, when we hit that 50% mark, you see cases surge,” he said.
Do as they say, not as they order. In states dropping mask requirements as a nod to personal freedom, politicians are still arguing people should wear masks, as Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves did on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. Read the entire transcript here. He pointed to plummeting numbers, argued Dr. Anthony Fauci and others are ignoring them, but also said he still encourages people to wear masks. He just thinks the time for the mandate is over.
Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchison is lifting his state’s mandate at the end of march. “At some point we have to rely upon common sense and good judgment versus mandates,” he said Sunday, arguing the mandate could be reinstated if hospitalizations rise.
Other governors are keeping mandates. Gov. Mike DeWine, another Republican, is keeping the mandate in Ohio.
“With the vaccine we’re now on the offense, that’s the great thing, but in Ohio, we can’t give up the defense. We have found these masks work exceedingly well. Schools are a prime example. We’ve seen it in our retail, 93% of Ohioans when they go into a retail establishment are wearing masks, so they’ve done a phenomenal job,” DeWine told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on “This Week.”
Michigan is keeping its mask mandate, but easing restaurant restrictions.
Here’s what Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said Sunday: “We’re kind of at the 10-yard line and we’re taking another 10 yards ahead, where some are at the 50 and dropping the mask mandate, and that’s the dangerous situation,” she said. “But there is no question we are going to keep tethered to the science, and watching the numbers to keep people safe.”