The number of daily coronavirus cases is dropping in the US as more people get vaccinated every day. Also, the first signs that vaccines work as intended even against mutations are here. But the COVID-19 pandemic is nowhere close to being over. Experts warn that a fourth wave might hit the US in the coming weeks, as many people remain vulnerable to infection. Even people who are fully vaccinated will have to respect health measures for some to come. That includes wearing face masks, social distancing while in public, and washing your hands often. The vaccines protect against severe COVID-19 and death, but vaccinated people might still contract the virus and spread it to others.
While the pandemic isn’t going to be over anytime soon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some good news for people anxious to get back to some version of normalcy. The agency is about to release new guidelines that will allow some people to gather in indoor settings without wearing masks.
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Later this week, the CDC will update its coronavirus guidelines to list safe activities for people who have received both COVID-19 vaccine doses. People will be able to meet family members and friends at home without wearing masks, as long as everyone in the group has received both shots. Vaccine antibodies appear about two weeks after the first shot but the full protection is reached a week after the second dose. The CDC guidelines will also recommend that people limit social interactions to small gatherings and continue to respect health measures in public settings.
President Joe Biden’s chief medical officer Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky previewed the guidelines during a press conference on Monday, Politico reports.
“I use the example of a daughter coming in from out of town who is doubly vaccinated, and a husband and wife doubly vaccinated, and maybe a next-door neighbor who you know are doubly vaccinated,” Fauci said. “Small gatherings in the home of people, I think you can clearly feel that the risk — the relative risk is so low that you would not have to wear a mask, that you could have a good social gathering within the home.”
The new recommendations will include a series of scenarios for Americans, including where they can socialize, with whom, and what to consider when making plans. The document will include a section on travel and might be released as soon as Thursday.
Walensky urged people to continue to be cautious since the number of COVID-19 cases is still high, and there are various mutations that can increase the spread.
“I want to really keep our eye on the fact that … cases are increasing right now, slightly,” the CDC director said. “The goal is not to sort of open up travel, open up all things because … we’re scaling up vaccination. The goal in those first 100 days has always been to sort of make sure that we are in a place to be out of this pandemic. At 70,000 cases per day, we’re not in that place right now.”
The two officials warned that they do not want to see a repeat of last year’s pandemic fatigue that led to a massive surge in COVID-19 cases over the summer.
“That’s a big lesson. In my mind, what occurred back last early summer, when we said, ‘okay, let’s try and open up the country and open up the economy,’ and we gave gateway guidelines … there were two things about that that were problematic,” Fauci told Politico. “The first was that the baseline level of daily infections at that time was really quite high. So you were starting off in a precarious situation. The second problematic thing is that many of the states did not adhere to the reopening guidelines. The reason I go back to that story is that as we get the level of cases to be very low … and get more and more people vaccinated, you’re going to have to gradually pull back in a very measured way. You can’t make it like a light switch.”