Over 45% of American adults have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and about one third are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, marking an important milestone for the U.S. In all, about 260+ million vaccinations have been administered in the U.S.
In response to this news, the CDC released updated safety guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals. These new guidelines allow fully vaccinated people more freedoms, while still outlining potential risks.
If you’re fully vaccinated, or will be soon, check out this breakdown of the new COVID guidelines.
Are You FULLY Vaccinated?
The CDC defines being fully vaccinated as two weeks after getting either both doses of a two-dose vaccine, like Pfizer or Moderna, or the full, single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.
The new guidelines do not apply to people who aren’t fully vaccinated. This means that if you’ve only received one dose of a two-dose vaccine or it has been less than two weeks since your final dose, you should still follow the original guidelines.
What Has Changed?
Fully vaccinated people can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying six feet apart.
They can also gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together), unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC.
It is relatively safe for fully vaccinated people to “attend a small, indoor gathering of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people from multiple households” when wearing masks, but it’s less safe for unvaccinated people, who should still wear a mask and stay 6 feet apart, according to the CDC.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure any unvaccinated family members or friends you meet with are exercising caution and following COVID guidelines.
Vaccinated people should still wear masks when gathering indoors with unvaccinated people (including children) from more than one other household and those with increased risk of illness or death from COVID-19 or who live with an at-risk person.
Fully vaccinated people can gather outside or participate in outdoor activities without wearing a mask except in certain crowded settings and venues, according to the CDC.
If you’ve been fully vaccinated, you can travel domestically in the U.S. without getting tested before or after your trip. You also don’t have to self-quarantine afterwards.
The U.S. Department of State recently updated its international travel advisories to align with CDC guidance, saying U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to 115 countries, including Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and most of Europe, because of the high risk of COVID-19. A majority of countries are still considered very high or high risk, with less than 20 destinations considered moderate and about 30 low risk.
Some destinations may require a negative COVID test and/or proof of vaccination. Also, even if you’ve been fully vaccinated, you should still get tested three to five days after international travel, but you don’t need to quarantine after returning to the U.S.
All air passengers coming into the United States must have a negative COVID-19 test result or proof of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a flight, according to the CDC. Masks are required on planes, trains, buses and all public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. airports and rail and bus stations.
Exposure to the Virus
If you’re fully vaccinated and have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, you do not need to quarantine or get tested unless you have symptoms or live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home), according to the CDC. In the latter case, you should “stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.”
After exposure to COVID-19, monitor your temperature for a fever and look out for other symptoms, like chills, a cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, loss of smell or taste, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
What Has Stayed the Same?
Being fully vaccinated can help put your mind at ease, but you should still avoid unnecessary, risky behaviors.
Caution in Public
You should still wear a mask and maintain distance in public, indoor settings – like the grocery store, a doctor’s office, your workplace, etc. – and on public transportation – buses, planes and trains, according to the CDC.
You should also continue avoiding crowds – both in doors and outdoors – including large indoor gatherings.
“You should also still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick,” according to the CDC. “If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.”
Of course, everyone’s immune system is different, and high-risk individuals may still need to follow stricter guidelines.
“People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken the immune system, should talk to their healthcare provider to discuss their activities,” according to the CDC. “They may need to keep taking all precautions to prevent COVID-19.”
Vaccination lessens your chance of contracting COVID-19 and reduces your risk of getting seriously ill from the virus should you catch it, says the CDC. Vaccines are available for people ages 16 and up. If you still need to get vaccinated, you can use the CDC’s finder tool or visit your county or state website to find a vaccination site.
Always talk to your doctor before making health-related decisions.