People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can gather with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or social distancing, according to new guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This long-awaited guidance comes as more and more adults are getting vaccinated and wondering if they can start returning to "normal" life before the pandemic.
Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of two-dose vaccines, like Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and two weeks after getting their single-dose shot, like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the CDC says.
Until then, people should be taking the same precautions health officials have been urging since last year: wear a properly fitting mask, wash your hands, stay 6 feet apart from others and avoid large groups.
Studies show the COVID-19 vaccines are "highly effective" at protecting fully vaccinated people against symptomatic and severe COVID-19, and there's growing evidence that suggests people who've been vaccinated are less likely to have asymptomatic COVID-19 and potentially less likely to spread COVID-19 to others, the CDC states.
Until more is known about how well the vaccine works at preventing the spread of the virus, how long it protects people and how effective the vaccines are against different variants, such as the B117 variant that's spreading in Carver County, fully vaccinated people should still take proper precautions when out in public, the CDC urges.
"Vaccinated people could potentially still become infected and spread the virus to others. However, the benefits of avoiding disruptions such as unnecessary quarantine and social isolation may outweigh these potential residual risks," the CDC said in a science brief released Monday. "A balanced approach to phasing out certain prevention measures may be a powerful motivator for vaccination, and thus should be an important goal of the U.S. vaccination program."
Once you've been fully vaccinated, you can start doing more things like gathering indoors with other fully vaccinated people without masks. The CDC says fully vaccinated people can also visit unvaccinated people from a single household, like visiting relatives who all live together, without masks so long as they don't live with someone who is at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
The CDC says fully vaccinated people who have been around someone with COVID-19 don't need to stay away from others or get tested unless they have symptoms. That is unless you live in a group setting like a group home or a correctional facility. In that case, you should stay away from others for 14 days and get tested even if you don't have symptoms.
Although some aspects of life are returning to "normal," the CDC says people, regardless of if they have been fully vaccinated, should void medium and large gatherings, delay domestic and international travel, watch for symptoms of COVID-19, get tested and stay home if symptoms develop.
The CDC's more detailed guidance for fully vaccinated people is available here.
As of March 8, 23% of the adult population in the U.S. has received one or more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 12% has received two doses, the CDC says.
In Minnesota, as of March 6, more than 1 million people have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 25.9% of the state's adult population getting at least one dose, the CDC notes.