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CDC offers new guidance for fully vaccinated people, easing restrictions for small gatherings

Oklahoma City resident Melvin Bunn receives his vaccination in late February. The CDC released new guidelines on Monday for those that have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma City resident Melvin Bunn receives his vaccination in late February. The CDC released new guidelines on Monday for those that have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

Once someone is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, they can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks, according guidance released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fully vaccinated people can also gather indoors with people from one household who haven’t been vaccinated — as long as those people aren’t at a greater risk for a severe illness from COVID-19.

They also don’t need to stay away from others or get tested after they’ve been around someone with COVID-19, unless they develop symptoms or live in a group setting, according to the CDC.

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after a single-shot vaccine like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the CDC.

Dr. Judith James, vice president of clinical affairs at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, said it’s important for people to draw a distinction between what is safe and what is lower risk based on the new guidelines.

“Because we can't promise that anything is safe, but we can definitely say that some things are much lower risk,” she said.

For example, under the guidelines, fully vaccinated grandparents could visit grandchildren from the same household indoors and without masks. People who might be at risk for more severe cases of COVID-19 — like cancer patients or people who have major medical conditions — may want to consider consulting with their physician before relaxing precautions, James said.

Dr. Dale Bratzler, the University of Oklahoma’s chief COVID officer and chief quality officer for OU Health, said the new guidelines could encourage people to get vaccinated. Before the CDC’s latest guidance, people were told to keep up the same precautions they’d been following — wearing masks, staying at home, avoiding crowds.

“I think people were starting to ask the question, ‘What's the benefit of getting vaccinated?’” Bratzler said. “The new guidelines do loosen the restrictions a bit and give you some ideas of things that you can do, and do safely.”

The CDC urged people to keep wearing masks and stay at a safe distance even after they’re vaccinated in certain situations, like when they’re in public, gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one household, or visiting with someone who could be at risk for a severe case of COVID (or someone lives with a person at increased risk).

The CDC also still recommended delaying domestic and international travel and avoiding medium or large gatherings. And people should still monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms, especially if they’ve recently been around someone who is sick.

Keeping up those precautions will be important because scientists are still learning whether someone who has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 could still carry and transmit the virus to others, Bratzler said.

“We encourage people to continue to wear masks to protect those people around them,” Bratzler said.

Both Bratzler and James said they expect the CDC’s guidelines to change over time — possibly allowing for more loosening of restrictions — as more people are vaccinated. So far in Oklahoma, nearly 16% of the population over 18 has gotten two doses of a vaccine, according to the CDC.

“It’s still really important for everybody who can, and for whom it's appropriate, to go get vaccinated,” James said. “The higher percentage of people that we have that are vaccinated, the more I think we will see changes that come out.”

Dana Branham

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