Vaccination first, hugs later

By The Health News Team | March 17, 2021
Girls, their mother and grandmother enjoying spending time together at home wearing face masks.

Grandparents everywhere have been waiting for the day when it's safe for them to once again spend time with their family members. But with COVID-19 affecting people over 65 far more than any other group, older adults knew they had to bide their time until safe and effective
COVID-19 vaccines were developed and distributed. That time has finally come, and the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new recommendations for fully vaccinated people.

"We've been through a lot this past year and with more and more people getting vaccinated each day, we are starting to turn a corner," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, shared during a COVID-19 Response Team press briefing. "And as more Americans are vaccinated, a growing body of evidence now tells us that there are some activities that fully vaccinated people can resume at low risk to themselves."

According to the CDC, "fully vaccinated" means that at least two weeks have passed since a person has received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine or the second of two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Here's what the CDC says fully vaccinated people can do:

  • Spend time indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks or physical distancing.

  • Spend time indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 illness without wearing masks or physical distancing.

  • Avoid quarantine and COVID-19 testing if exposed to COVID-19, as long as no
    COVID-19 symptoms are evident (asymptomatic).

For grandparents, this means they can safely visit their healthy children and grandchildren - and even grab those big hugs they've likely been dreaming of for more than a year - as long as no one in that household is at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness. Older adults can also get back to spending time with other fully vaccinated peers, doing the activities they enjoyed before pandemic restrictions were put in place.

There are still some precautions to follow
"It is so gratifying to share this good news that allows vaccinated family and friends to spend time together in person," says Dr. Stephen Munday, medical director of epidemiology and provider safety with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. "However, it is important to remember that in addition to this guidance from the CDC, the California regional stay-at-home order that limits private gatherings to no more than 3 households, including the host, is still in effect. So, regardless of vaccination status, we should continue to follow state guidelines."

There are some precautions that fully vaccinated people must still take, both to keep themselves and others around them safe. It is not yet known if vaccination will prevent people from catching an asymptomatic or very mild case of COVID-19, or if vaccination prevents people from spreading COVID-19 to others.

"It's important to note that this is initial guidance," Dr. Walensky says. "The science of COVID-19 is complex and our understanding of the virus continues to rapidly evolve. As more people get vaccinated, and the science and evidence expands, and as the disease dynamics of this country change, we will continue to update this guidance."

So, until more time passes and more is understood about the efficacy and duration of vaccines, fully vaccinated people - as well as others they are with - should continue to wear a mask and practice physical distancing and other prevention measures when:

  • In public spaces.

  • Spending time with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness. 

  • Spending time with unvaccinated people from multiple households.

The CDC also advises fully vaccinated people to:

  • Avoid medium and large in-person gatherings and crowds.

  • Watch for symptoms of COVID-19 and get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, especially after a known exposure to someone with COVID-19.

  • Follow current and updated guidance offered by their or their loved ones' school or employer.

  • Follow current and updated CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations.

"COVID-19 continues to exact a tremendous toll on our nation," Dr. Walensky says. "Like you, I want to be able to return to everyday activities and engage with our friends, families and communities. Science and the protection of public health must guide us as we begin to resume these activities. As more people get vaccinated, levels of COVID-19 infection decline in communities, and as our understanding of COVID immunity improves, we look forward to updating these recommendations."

Get COVID-19 vaccine information and access to COVID-19 resources from Sharp HealthCare.

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