The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared on May 13 that fully vaccinated people against COVID-19 can do away with wearing masks or physically distancing outdoors and indoors, even in crowded places. The CDC defines full vaccination as a minimum of two weeks after the second shot from a two-dose vaccine or after the only shot from a one-dose vaccine. According to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, people can regain a sense of normalcy and do whatever they previously could not do because of the pandemic.
After that change in regulations, communities in the United States without many COVID-19 cases must have seen more activities from locals and local businesses. Instagram feeds must have flooded with photos of people posing in front of customized photo backdrops of shops, bars, and restaurants, flaunting their newfound freedom. Billboards will be freshened up with new images. Reunions must have abounded among families who live apart and friends who have not met up since the start of the pandemic.
Guidelines for Fully Vaccinated and Unvaccinated People
The other benefit of full vaccination is the resumption of domestic travel without COVID-19 testing or self-quarantine. There is also no need for testing before traveling out of the country and no need for self-quarantine upon returning from abroad. Testing and self-quarantine are not necessary even after exposure to COVID-19 as long as the person is asymptomatic. Fully vaccinated people who experience symptoms of COVID-19 must, however, undergo testing and, if positive, must stay away from public and private places.
There are still other limitations, even for fully vaccinated people. Everyone must continue to wear masks in public transportation, homeless shelters, and correctional institutes. Also, fully vaccinated people still have to wear masks in places where a local, state, or federal law or regulation requires it and if a business or their workplace requires it. Immunocompromised people who are ill or have certain maintenance medications, even if fully vaccinated, must heed their primary doctor’s advice on protection.
Unvaccinated people, including those who only had one out of two vaccine doses and those who completed their doses but have not passed the two-week post-vaccination period, must still wear masks and observe physical distancing in most places outside their homes, wash or sanitize their hands frequently, and avoid crowded places with poor ventilation. The only instances unvaccinated people can do away with wearing masks are when they are outdoors with only members of their household or if they are attending a small outdoor gathering where everyone else is fully vaccinated.
Some people still prefer to be cautious. University of Maryland’s School of Public Health professor Donald Milton told ABC News that he will continue to wear a mask until the positive test rate in Maryland falls from the current four percent to less than one percent. He notes that he is only 95 percent protected against infection despite full vaccination.
In an article by the Washington University in St. Louis, Olin Business School associate professor of marketing Song Yao stated that the soundness of the new CDC guidelines remains to be seen depending on whether COVID-19 cases continue to decrease or if the level plateaus or rises.
Based on CDC data as of 8 p.m. on May 26, 61.8 percent of the population, or 165.07 million people, had at least one vaccine dose, and 39.7 percent, or 131.85 million people, already had full vaccinations. Covid-19 cases and deaths in the last 30 days show a downward trend.
Other experts expressed their support for the new CDC guidelines. Vanderbilt University Medical Center doctor of infectious disease Dr. William Schaffner told Reuters that the vaccines impressed him and his fellow infectious disease doctors and state health departments, and fully vaccinated people deserve this reward.
Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health professor Dr. Joe Allen told ABC News that authorities must be flexible and relax controls when things are going well but implement stricter controls if things worsen.
Communities and Local Businesses to Come Alive
Businesses reopening due to the new guidelines will be highly competitive as fully vaccinated people are raring to go out and shop, dine, and enjoy themselves. Facades previously made dreary by shuttered doors and windows will now carry new signage and artfully designed window dressings. Posts on social media will not only market online businesses but also physical shops.
Communities will once more be able to fully celebrate social events like weddings in any venue the couples choose, indoors or outdoors. There need not be limitations to the number of fully vaccinated guests.
As more and more people get fully vaccinated, life will slowly return to normal. The battered economy will slowly recover as businesses, down to the smallest ones, flourish again. This can only benefit communities and their people.