The CDC released pandemic safety recommendations for vaccinated people on Monday, allowing them to meet indoors with each other without masks or with one other household of unvaccinated people if they are at a low risk of serious illnesses.
The release of the long-awaited guidelines comes as US COVID-19 vaccinations have increased nationwide. About 59 million people have now received at least one shot. More than 90 million vaccine doses have been shipped nationwide.
“The recommendations issued today are just a first step,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a White House briefing. Whether vaccinated people can get sick and transmit an infection is the big open question that will shape recommendations moving forward, she said. For that reason, vaccinated people should still wear masks. “You can visit your grandparents if you have been vaccinated and they have been too.”
Here is what the new CDC guidelines lay out:
- Fully vaccinated people can visit other fully vaccinated people indoors without masking or physical distancing.
- Fully vaccinated people can visit one unvaccinated household where the people there are at a low risk of contracting a serious coronavirus illness.
- Fully vaccinated people do not need to quarantine after exposure to someone infected with COVID-19 if they do not have any symptoms of the disease.
- Unvaccinated people from different households should continue to wear masks, avoid indoor gatherings, and physically distance from others who have not yet been vaccinated.
The recommendations did not change guidelines to avoid travel. "Every time that there's a surge in travel, we have a surge in cases in this country," Walensky said. "We know that many of our variants have emerged out from international places, and we know that the travel corridor is a place where people are mixing a lot. So we're really trying to restrain travel at this current period of time."
The more contagious B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus, which was first spotted in the United Kingdom, continues to show up in testing in the US and is expected to become the predominant strain of the virus in the country this month. Vaccines look just as effective against the variant as the original coronavirus, but health experts, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Anthony Fauci, have stressed the need to take both shots of the two-shot vaccines to ensure full protection against variants.
The vaccines — including the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine authorized last month — take two weeks to go into full effect.
The CDC also released a report on Monday confirming that obesity, particularly in those 65 and older, was a significant risk factor for severe cases of COVID-19, raising the odds of being put on a ventilator or dying. The finding supports a medical hypothesis that both body fat and underlying conditions frequently seen among the overweight, such as diabetes, may contribute to the inflammation of the immune system that often causes death in COVID-19 patients.
The CDC guidelines say vaccinated people can have dinner together without masks or distancing. This story has been updated to clarify this and remove a misleading quote.