As COVID-19 cases trend downward in some parts of the country and vaccinations ramp up, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is releasing long-awaited guidance on what people can do after they’ve been fully vaccinated against the virus.
About one year into the pandemic, federal guidance released in March said fully vaccinated people can travel safely and socialize a bit more freely, giving Americans a sense of what a return to a new normal might look like in the months ahead.
During a White House COVID-19 briefing in early March, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky outlined the agency’s recommendations for visits between people who have been vaccinated and those who haven’t been vaccinated, and in April, the agency issued updated travel guidance. At the end of April, the CDC released mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people.
A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they have received the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Walensky said.
Walensky has said that the guidance represents the CDC’s initial recommendations, and the agency will continue to update it as more people get vaccinated, the levels of COVID-19 infections decline, and as its understanding of COVID-19 immunity improves.
Here’s what the CDC said you can do once you’ve been vaccinated.
Fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear masks outdoors anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers, such as at a concert or a sporting event, where they should continue to wear face coverings.
For example, according to the CDC, fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks while walking, running, or biking outdoors with their household, at a small, outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated or unvaccinated family and friends, and dining at an outdoor restaurant with friends from multiple households.
The agency also recommends that fully vaccinated people wear masks at indoor public places, like hair salons, restaurants, shopping centers, gyms, museums, and movie theaters.
It is safe for fully vaccinated people to travel in the United States, the CDC said in early April.
Vaccinated people can travel without getting tested for the coronavirus or quarantining, the CDC said, but people should still practice public health precautions like wearing a mask, socially distancing, avoiding crowds, and washing hands frequently.
Vaccinated people travelling internationally do not need to get a COVID-19 test before leaving, the CDC said, unless the destination country requires it.
For travelers arriving in the US, vaccinated people should still get a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight, and be tested three to five days after arrival. They do not need to quarantine.
Fully vaccinated people can:
- Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or social distancing.
- Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 indoors without wearing masks or social distancing.
- Refrain from quarantining and testing after knowingly being exposed to COVID-19 if they are asymptomatic.
Fully vaccinated people should still:
- Wear masks, physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for COVID-19 or who live with someone who is unvaccinated and at increased risk for COVID-19.
- Wear masks, practice physical distancing, gather outdoors or in a well-ventilated space, and adhere to other public health measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households.
- Avoid large- and medium-sized in-person gatherings.
- Get tested if they’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Here’s a look at the CDC’s guidance for visits between people who have been vaccinated and those who haven’t, with specifications for circumstances of the unvaccinated people to determine the level of risk that socializing poses.
People who have been fully vaccinated visiting with unvaccinated people from a single household where no one is at risk of severe COVID-19 can:
- Visit indoors without anyone wearing a mask or social distancing, with low risk of COVID-19 transmission.
- An example provided by the CDC includes fully vaccinated grandparents visiting indoors with their unvaccinated, healthy daughter and her healthy children as long as the unvaccinated people are not at risk for severe COVID-19.
People who have been fully vaccinated visiting with unvaccinated people from a single household where members are at risk of severe COVID-19 should:
- Visit while all attendees of the gathering are taking precautions like wearing masks, keeping at least 6 feet away from others, and visiting outdoors or in a well-ventilated space.
- An example provided by the CDC includes a fully vaccinated person visiting with a person who is 70 years old and therefore at risk for severe COVID-19. The CDC recommends that the gathering takes place outdoors, while everyone wears well-fitting masks, and maintains at least 6 feet of distance.
The CDC notes that visits between people who have been fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people from multiple households poses a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, because two unvaccinated households still pose a risk to each other.
People who have been fully vaccinated visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households should:
- Visit while everyone involved is taking precautions like visiting outdoors or in a well-ventilated space, wearing well-fitted masks, and staying at least 6 feet away from others.
- An example provided by the CDC includes fully vaccinated grandparents visiting with their unvaccinated, healthy daughter and her healthy children and the daughter’s unvaccinated neighbors coming over. The CDC recommends that the gathering takes place outdoors, while everyone wears well-fitting masks, and maintains at least 6 feet of distance.
Amanda Kaufman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.