5/13 Update from the CDC

Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting unless required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local businesses and workplace guidance.

The COVID-19 vaccines have given us hope for a more normal 2021. After a year filled with so many changes and disruptions, it feels only fair to have a return to some normalcy and begin making some long-overdue plans with friends and family, right? Not to be the bearer of bad news, but the reality is a bit more complicated than that. Experts tell us to think of the vaccine as the first step towards normalcy and that fully getting there will take several phases of easing away from our current safety restrictions. So let’s break it down: how do we move forward after getting vaccinated and begin making that shift back to “normal?”

First, it’s important to understand the difference between simply receiving your vaccine and being considered fully vaccinated. The CDC recommends that you wait 2 weeks after the second dose in a 2-dose series such as the Moderna or Pfizer or 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine like the Johnson & Johnson before considering yourself immuned.1 Again, you’re not fully vaccinated until you meet these timeline requirements as it can take about two weeks for the body to build up immunity to the virus. It is still possible to get an infection before or after the vaccine during those two weeks. 

So, you’ve received your final vaccine dose and have waited two weeks. Are things normal yet? Not quite, but there are some changes to the guidelines and restrictions you should follow.

First, here are the things you should continue doing as recommended by the CDC2:

  • You should still continue to wear your mask around crowds and others who have been unvaccinated. Some of these situations include:
    • Indoor public settings such as grocery stores, restaurants, etc. 
    • Being indoors with unvaccinated people from more than one other household, including children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. 
    • Visiting indoors with an unvaccinated person who is at increased risk of COVID-19
  • Traveling precautions are still in place. 
    • It is still required to wear a mask when taking public transportation such as buses, trains, and planes. Along with these, hubs of transport such as airports and stations. 
    • International travelers who have been vaccinated are still required to get tested within 3 days of their flight. Other countries and airlines may have different requirements and it’s always best to check their websites.
    • The vaccine does provide immunity but it’s not bulletproof and you should still watch for any symptoms of COVID-19 especially when being exposed. If you have symptoms you should still get tested and stay home.
    • Again, for anyone with a pre-existing condition and/or is taking medication, continue working with your primary care provider to discuss what activities to partake in after getting the vaccine. 

 And here are some of the relaxed restrictions you can now safely enjoy:

  • You can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without the need for masks or social distancing. 
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from no more than one other household without masks or staying 6 feet apart. 
  • You can gather outdoors without wearing a mask except in large crowded settings and venues. Check with your chosen venue before going to review their requirements for entry. They will also most likely have signs before entering. 
  • Before traveling outside of the US, it’s best to check the status of your destination and check their requirements. 
    • Leaving the United States doesn’t require one to take a covid test before departing but your destination might still require a test. 
    • You will need to show a negative test result from COVID-19 before boarding your flight back to the United States
    • It is still recommended that you get tested 3-5 days after arriving from your travel but it is now not required to self-quarantine when returning. 
  • If you have been exposed:
    • You don’t need to self-quarantine unless you have symptoms. 

Before venturing out and revisiting your more normal activities, here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I going to a public area?
    • If yes, ask if it’s going to be a crowded area
    • If it is a crowded area, continue to wear masks and social distance
    • If not, you can be mask-free unless you’re interacting with people who are unvaccinated.  
  • Am I going to be with fully vaccinated people?
    • Ask if it’s been 2 weeks since their last dose
    • If yes, wonderful! Enjoy your time together without masks or social distancing.
    • If not, please resume the regular safety precautions or wait till that 2-week mark.
  • Am I going to be around children?
    • If it’s with one other household you will be safe to interact mask-free.
    • If it’s with children from multiple households please continue to wear masks and social distance.

We’ve heard it repeated that the real threshold for moving on to a more normal life is achieving herd immunity, defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “resistance to the spread of an infectious disease within a population that is based on pre-existing immunity of a high proportion of individuals as a result of previous infection or vaccination.”3  Research suggests that it takes at least 70% of a population to have immunity from a virus for the whole community to be protected. But since COVID-19 is such a novel virus, the percentage has fluctuated between scientists over the past year due to numerous factors such as the new variants and questions over how the vaccines will fare over time. In the U.S. the required herd immunity percentage has been estimated at 75% to 85%, with some experts now stressing to increase that figure to at least 90%. 

Herd immunity is still the goal for our country (and the world) to move forward from this novel virus, but actually reaching that evolving target is going to take time. Eventually, restrictions on travel and events like concerts are likely to ease up, but again in phases. Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist studying COVID-19 at UC Irvine has said “Winter is going to start being flu and Covid season.”4 It doesn’t seem like getting our vaccines will make COVID disappear but at the very least we can work towards living more normally alongside it. 

Until the next phase here are some fun ideas on what you can do now after being fully vaccinated:

  • Visit vaccinated family and friends for a dinner and board game night
  • Go on an outdoor picnic 
  • Schedule a get together for missed celebrations with family 
  • Dine at outdoor restaurants with more people from different households
  • Go to a group exercise class

We hope that you find this resource helpful. Getting the vaccines out and administered has been a huge step forward for everyone’s safety and livelihood. Let’s continue to make health our priority for ourselves and for those around us.

 

References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). COVID-19 Vaccines that Require 2 Shots. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/second-shot.html. 
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html. 
  3. Herd Immunity. Oxford Reference. (n.d.). https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095932166#:~:text=Quick%20Reference,in%20A%20Dictionary%20of%20Nursing%20%C2%BB. 
  4. Cohen, J. (2021, May 9). Covid-19 Herd Immunity Looks Like A Mirage, But Is Worth Pursuing. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/joshuacohen/2021/05/08/covid-19-herd-immunity-looks-like-a-mirage-but-is-worth-pursuing/?sh=2be674a9381f.