Vaccinated people can gather in small groups without masks, CDC rules

Vaccinated people are allowed to gather in small groups with low-risk individuals without wearing a mask, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has ruled in its new guidance.

The CDC has defined someone who is fully vaccinated as those who received the second dose of Moderna or Pfizer’s vaccine at least two weeks ago or those who received a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine at least two weeks ago.

While vaccinated individuals are protected from experiencing severe disease from Covid-19, according to current data, scientists are still working to determine if they could spread the virus to unvaccinated individuals. This has impacted what the CDC recommends for individuals as more and more Americans receive a vaccine.

The CDC has revealed that vaccinated individuals can meet indoors with one other household that’s unvaccinated without wearing masks or practicing social distancing. But the unvaccinated individuals must be “at low risk for severe disease”.

If someone within the unvaccinated household is at high risk to experience severe disease from Covid-19, then all individuals need to wear a mask and are asked to practice social distancing as well as meeting outdoors in a “well ventilated space”.

Recommendations are similar if a vaccinated individual meets with unvaccinated people from multiple households. All individuals are then asked to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and meet outdoors in a ventilated area to protect everyone.

“Fully vaccinated people should continue to take precautions in public like wearing masks and physical distancing,” CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said during a White House response team briefing on Monday.

Additionally, fully vaccinated individuals are still asked to avoid medium and large-sized gatherings outside their immediate household for the foreseeable future. Nonessential travel is also to be avoided.

Guidances changed slightly for vaccinated individuals when it comes to if they interacted with someone who tested positive with Covid-19.

Vaccinated individuals are now told they do not have to quarantine for 14 days or receive a Covid-19 test if they interact with someone who tests positive as long as they are asymptomatic. But they should quarantine and receive a test if they start to develop symptoms.

The guidelines also state that the risk of infection for vaccinated individuals when doing activities like going to the gym or a restaurant is slightly lower than unvaccinated individuals, however, the transmission risk remained and taking proper precautions is asked. This is because these scenarios increased the chances of a vaccinated individual interacting with an unvaccinated individual.

Dr Walensky said the CDC guidance would remain the same for traveling while the agency waits for more data to better determine if vaccinated individuals transmit the virus to unvaccinated individuals.

In the meantime, the public is asked to follow these “initial” guidelines as more and more people receive a Covid-19 vaccine.

“The benefits of reducing social isolation and relaxing some measures such as quarantine requirements may outweigh the residual risk of fully vaccinated people becoming ill with Covid-19 or transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to others,” the guidelines said. “There are several activities that fully vaccinated people can resume now, at low risk to themselves, while being mindful of the potential risk of transmitting the virus to others.”

More than 30 million people have been fully vaccinated in the United States as of Monday morning, according to data from the CDC.

This number is expected to grow rapidly as the country administers an average of 2.2 million vaccine doses per day and states start distributing the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.

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