Important Notice: This post was published on March 9, 2021 and may be out of date.
hand holding a vaccine record card
The CDC has released guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated. The biggest highlight: two weeks after you’ve had your final shot, you can spend time without masks indoors with other fully vaccinated people, although you should still wear masks when out in public.
You can hang out maskless with others who are vaccinated
If everyone in a group has finished their vaccinations at least two weeks ago, those people can safely gather together, indoors, without masks. This mainly refers to private gatherings, like visiting friends in their home.
For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, that means two weeks after the second dose. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, that means two weeks after the one-and-only dose.
You can forgo masks with some unvaccinated people
The CDC says that fully vaccinated people can spend time indoors with people from a single household, as long as those people are not at high risk of severe illness if they were to get COVID-19.
Visits with more than one household are still occasions to wear masks, even if some people are vaccinated. The people who are not vaccinated are still a risk to each other.
There are a few examples in the more detailed version of the guidelines:
[I]f a fully vaccinated individual visits with an unvaccinated friend who is seventy years old and therefore at risk of severe disease, the visit should take place outdoors, wearing well-fitted masks, and maintaining physical distance (at least 6 feet).
Fully vaccinated grandparents can visit indoors with their unvaccinated healthy daughter and her healthy children without wearing masks or physical distancing, provided none of the unvaccinated family members are at risk of severe COVID-19.
Continuing the example from above, if…the daughter’s unvaccinated neighbors also come over, the visit should then take place outdoors, wearing well-fitted masks, and maintaining physical distance (at least 6 feet). This is due to the risk the two unvaccinated households pose to one another.
The vaccines almost certainly reduce the chances that you can transmit the coronavirus to others, but we don’t yet have solid numbers on how much they reduce the risk—which is probably why this part of the guidelines is so cautious. It’s unlikely that you would be able to make an unvaccinated person sick, but we can’t say for sure that it’s impossible.
You don’t need to quarantine or get tested, in most cases
If you are around someone who tests positive for COVID, but you were fully vaccinated at the time, the CDC now says you do not need to get tested, or to quarantine, as long as you still feel fine.
If you do develop symptoms, you should consider the possibility that you may have COVID, and you should follow the usual guidelines from there, including getting tested. The exception to this rule is if you live in a group setting, like a nursing home or correctional facility; in that case, the CDC then recommends that you stay away from others for 14 days and get tested.
What rules still apply?
Everyone should still use precautions when in public places, like masks and distancing. Remember that others don’t know whether you’re vaccinated or not, so when you go to a public place—say, the grocery store—it still makes sense for everyone to continue wearing their masks.
You should also still use precautions when visiting people if you don’t know whether they’ve been vaccinated and if you don’t know whether they are high risk. The CDC also recommends that you still avoid unnecessary travel (international or otherwise) and avoid medium-sized or large gatherings.
Things may change
The guidelines don’t say how long your protection from the vaccine should be considered to last, because we don’t know yet. The CDC also points out that we are still learning how well the vaccines protect against the variants, and how well they prevent vaccinated people from spreading the virus to others. As we learn more about those three things, the guidelines may well be updated to reflect new knowledge.
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