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UPDATE: I’ve Had my COVID Vaccine, Now What?

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There is some GREAT news out from the CDC this week. We can begin looking forward to some relaxation of the restrictions regarding gatherings.

These new guidelines are a big step toward returning to normal life after a year of hardship and isolation. After a rocky start, the nation’s mass vaccination campaign has administered more than 90 million doses, reaching 17.7% of the total U.S. population. Nearly 3 million shots are being given every day.

The CDC said on Monday that vaccinated individuals can gather in small groups indoors without masks. This means these individuals can eat and socialize together and share long overdue hugs.  For many of us who have diligently kept our loved ones safe by not seeing them can finally visit. If grandparents are vaccinated they can see and HUG their children and grandchildren. The risk isn’t zero, but much safer than before. 

If you are someone that is at very high risk of severe COVID infection, you should continue to wear masks in group settings until there is more guidance. 

If you are vaccinated, you do not need to quarantine after travel or if you have been around someone with COVID. 

This article from the San Jose Mercury News provides scenarios you might find yourself in over the next months. You might ask, 

Q: I’m vaccinated, but friends I want to meet are not. Masks or no masks?

A: It depends. Who’s that other person? What matters here isn’t you, but the characteristics of your unvaccinated friends and family.

Masks aren’t needed if they’re from a single household and are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease. But masks are needed if they are at high risk for severe COVID-19 disease because they’re older, pregnant, smoke cigarettes or are obese. Or perhaps they’re diabetic, immunocompromised or have other medical problems, such as cancer or a disease of the heart, kidney or lungs.

Masks are also needed if the people you’re seeing are from several households. Why? Because the two unvaccinated households pose a risk to one another.

There are caveats in the experts’ recommendations, depending on where you are and who you’re with: When in public, always reach for the mask — not because you’re in danger, but to let others know that you’re being conscientious for their safety.  If you are not sure of someone’s vaccine status, wear a mask. 

Dining has been a big part of our social lives we have been missing. States continue to have differing guidelines.  See below what Dr. Maldonado from Stanford recommends.

Q: Dining at restaurants: Indoors or out?

A: In an abundance of caution, Stanford infectious disease epidemiologist Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, who is vaccinated, is still eating outdoors. “In the next several months,” as more people are vaccinated, “I would pick indoors,” she added.

Out of consideration to the waiter and others, wear a mask when not eating. It’s not fair to put unvaccinated people at potential risk — including restaurant employees, who don’t have a lot of choice about whether to be there.

Travel also remains a hot topic as more people are vaccinated.

Q:  Can I safely travel on a plane to see a family member or friend?

A: Yes, according to Priya Sampathkumar, chair of Infection Control & Prevention at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic. The risk to you will be extremely low.  But wear a mask so you don’t contribute to the network of people who could theoretically spread the virus.

We can celebrate this wonderful milestone and look forward to more good news like this in the weeks to come.

Prerana Sangani, MD, March 9, 2021