On Monday, March 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated Americans could gather with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing– long-awaited guidance for many across the country.
Additionally, the CDC stated that vaccinated people could gather with people from a single household considered at low-risk for severe disease (such as vaccinated grandparents visiting their healthy children and grandchildren).
Recently, there has been a growing demand amongst adults who have been vaccinated to travel, visit family members and take part in other activities they haven’t been able to participate in since before the start of the pandemic. This announcement was intended to address those demands.
“With more and more people vaccinated each day, we are starting to turn a corner,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.
During the CDC’s press briefing, Walensky said that this announcement marked the “first step” towards restoring a sense of normalcy to society in terms of how we gather with one another. As more Americans are vaccinated and COVID-19 deaths decline, Walensky also indicated that more activities could receive the “green light” going forward.
“I hope that this new guidance provides the momentum for everyone to get vaccinated when they can and gives states the patience to follow the public health roadmap needed to reopen their economies and communities safely,” Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a former acting director of the CDC said in a statement.
However, the CDC still strongly advocates for fully vaccinated people to wear well-fitted medical masks and socially distance when in public.
Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University who was formerly Baltimore’s health commissioner, pointed out that this new guidance says nothing about going to restaurants or other places too, even though governors across America are lifting restrictions on these businesses. Therefore, she believes this announcement is also “far too cautious.”
“The CDC is missing a major opportunity to tie vaccination status with reopening guidance,” Wen said in an email. “By coming out with such limited guidance, they are missing the window to influence state and national policy.”
The CDC didn’t give a set timeline for when additional announcements would arrive, but, as always, they encourage common sense when continuing to work and travel throughout the community – mask wearing, social distancing, and receiving vaccines as soon as you can.
According to the CDC, 31 million Americans – or 9% of the U.S. population – have been fully vaccinated with a federally authorized COVID-19 vaccine thus far. Generally, a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose of their specific vaccine.