The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to release guidance this week—possibly as early as Thursday—on activities that are considered safe for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
But, while much of the country is hankering for some return of normalcy, the guidance is unlikely to deliver any satisfying taste of it. People who are fully vaccinated will be advised to continue adhering to most public health measures, such as mask wearing and physical distancing in most settings. Though they will get the greenlight for limited social gatherings, those should be kept small and home-based, and they should only include other fully vaccinated adults, according to early reports.
In a press conference Monday, top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci laid out an example:
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. 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. Beyond that is going to be based on a combination of data, a combination of modeling, and a combination of good, clinical common sense.
The guidance will lay out further scenarios and considerations for socializing, as well as traveling.
Two senior Biden administration officials working on the guidance told Politico that the recommendations will hew closely to recent advice from CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who has repeatedly emphasized the need to keep up health measures at this tenuous point in the pandemic.
“Now, more than ever, we must do all we can to stop the spread of the virus,” Walensky said in a press conference Wednesday. She pleaded with Americans to continue wearing masks, staying six feet apart, avoiding crowds, and avoiding travel.
“Today, we are at a critical nexus in the pandemic,” Walensky warned. After new cases of COVID-19 plummeted for weeks, they have now stalled at high levels, she noted.
“So much can turn in the next few weeks,” she said. “On the one hand, cases in the country are leveling off at rates just on the cusp of the potential to resurge and the B.1.1.7 hyper-transmissible variant looms ready to hijack our successes to date. And, on the other hand, stamina has worn thin, fatigue is winning, and the exact measures we have taken to stop the pandemic are now too often being flagrantly ignored.”
Many states in recent days have relaxed restrictions. Massachusetts, for instance, has lifted capacity restrictions on restaurants. Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, and Texas among others have lifted mask mandates.
Walensky addressed Americans directly. “Whether mandated or not… we can still take the right public health actions to protect ourselves and others.”