Fully vaccinated people can gather without masks, CDC says
New guidance called a 'first step' toward restoring normalcy
Fully vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing, according to long-awaited guidance from federal health officials.
The recommendations also say that vaccinated people can come together in the same way — in a single household — with people considered at low-risk for severe disease, such as in the case of vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy children and grandchildren.
"People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they have gotten the second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines — or two weeks after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine," Yavapai County Community Health Services (YCCHS) explained in a Monday, March 8 news release.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the guidance Monday as Arizona is reporting a daily number of new coronavirus cases below 1,000 for the first time in months alongside no new deaths.
The new CDC guidance is designed to address a growing demand, as more adults have been getting vaccinated and wondering if it gives them greater freedom to visit family members, travel, or do other things like they did before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world last year.
"With more and more people vaccinated each day, we are starting to turn a corner," said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
During a press briefing Monday, she called the guidance a "first step" toward restoring normalcy in how people come together. She said more activities would be ok'd for vaccinated individuals once caseloads and deaths decline, more Americans are vaccinated, and as more science emerges on the ability of those who have been vaccinated to get and spread the virus.
STILL MASK UP IN PUBLIC
The CDC is continuing to recommend that fully vaccinated people still wear well-fitted masks, avoid large gatherings and physically distance themselves from others when out in public. The CDC also advised vaccinated people to get tested if they develop symptoms that could be related to COVID-19.
Officials say a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose of vaccine. About 31 million Americans — or only about 9% of the U.S. population — have been fully vaccinated with a federally authorized COVID-19 vaccine so far, according to the CDC.
Authorized vaccine doses first became available in December, and they were products that required two doses spaced weeks apart. But since January, a small but growing number of Americans have been fully vaccinated, and have been asking questions like: Do I still have to wear a mask? Can I go to a bar now? Can I finally see my grandchildren?
The guidance was "welcome news to a nation that is understandably tired of the pandemic and longs to safely resume normal activities," said Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a former acting director of the CDC.
"I hope that this new guidance provides the momentum for everyone to get vaccinated when they can and gives states the patience to follow the public health roadmap needed to reopen their economies and communities safely," said Besser, in a statement.
But Dr. Leana Wen called the guidance "far too cautious."
CAUTIONS STILL IN PLACE
The CDC did not change its recommendations on travel, which discourages unnecessary travel and calls for getting tested within a few days of the trip. That could seem confusing to vaccinated people hoping to visit family across the country or abroad.
The new guidance also says nothing about going to restaurants or other places, even though governors are lifting restrictions on businesses, said Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University who was formerly Baltimore's health commissioner.
"The CDC is missing a major opportunity to tie vaccination status with reopening guidance. By coming out with such limited guidance, they are missing the window to influence state and national policy," Wen said, in an email.
The CDC guidance did not speak to people who may have gained some level of immunity from being infected, and recovering from, the coronavirus.
YCCHS clarified that the new guidelines do not suggest that fully vaccinated people can go back to life as normal.
"Keep up with hand washing, wear masks in public places and continue to adhere to physical distancing guidelines, avoid crowded areas and seek COVID-19 testing if symptoms develop," the agency stated in the news release.
In a letter to Yavapai County residents, County Supervisor Craig Brown is still requiring masks upon entry in all county buildings.
In Arizona, more than 2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered, with more than 711,000 people having received the recommended two doses.
The number of confirmed or suspected hospitalized coronavirus patients statewide dipped to 919, the fewest since Nov. 1. The number of ICU beds used by COVID-19 patients fell to 256, the lowest since Nov. 6.
In Sunday's update from the CDC, Arizona ranked seventh in the nation for coronavirus deaths per capita over the last seven days and 19th in cases.
Yavapai County reported 49 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend. The county has tested 103,697 residents for COVID-19 with 17,645 positive cases, 7,606 recovered and 473 deaths.
"As cross-referencing of cases continues and classification of the late-reported cases by a local provider, there is a net +77 cases overall," YCCHS said.
According to data from Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) Arizona is currently reporting a 5% positivity rate, the lowest rate since October. Locally, Yavapai County is reporting a 12.6% positivity rate. The ADHS dashboard shows over 2.1 million Arizonans have been vaccinated, with Yavapai County vaccinating over 79,000 residents or 22% of the county’s population.
Yavapai Regional Medical Center is caring for 15 COVID-19 patients, 12 on the West campus, and three on the East campus. Verde Valley Medical Center in Cottonwood reports three COVID patients and the Prescott VA has no COVID patients.
Check the YCCHS Vaccine Information page for any updates on availability at the Spectrum and YRMC Points of Dispensing (PODs), as well as pharmacies listed on the Pharmacy Information page, www.yavapai.us/chs/Home/COVID-19/Vaccine.
Spectrum Healthcare’s POD in Prescott Valley will be in the AZ Dermatology Suite, 3001 N Main Street (not Findlay Toyota Center) now through Wednesday, March 10.
The Yavapai County Emergency Phone Bank is available to assist people without internet or computer in making appointments by calling 928-442-5103, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
LOCAL COVID-19 INFORMATION
• For Yavapai County COVID-19 vaccine information, visit https://www.yavapai.us/chs/Home/COVID-19/Vaccine.
• Yavapai Emergency Phone Bank for COVID-19 Info: 928-442-5103 – Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• For a COVID-19 test at Community Health Center of Yavapai, call 928-583-1000. For a flu shot, call 928-771-3122.
• COVID-19 information en español: https://www.azdhs.gov/preparedness/epidemiology-disease-control/infectious-disease-epidemiology/es/covid-19/index.php#novel-coronavirus-home.