What can fully vaccinated people do? Dr. Leana Wen says some CDC advice too cautious

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention...

Posted: Mar 10, 2021 4:27 PM
Updated: Mar 10, 2021 4:28 PM

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued long-awaited guidance on what fully vaccinated people can safely do, and with it, an opening: There's more opportunity to see our loved ones again.

White House Senior Adviser for Covid Response Andy Slavitt told CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta we should expect to see more guidance on how to return to normal as we see the rate of vaccination increase.

"The rate at which new guidance will develop is directly related to how quickly we vaccinate the country," Slavitt told Gupta. "This is the key point. At 10% vaccinations we have this guidance. At 20-30%, we will have new guidance."

So what can we really do? We discuss the major takeaways with CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. Here's her advice.

CNN: When is someone considered to be fully vaccinated?

Dr. Leana Wen: A person is fully vaccinated at least two weeks after the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two weeks after a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

CNN: What's the CDC's guidance for fully vaccinated people getting together?

Wen: The CDC says that people who are fully vaccinated can see one another, indoors, without masks or social distancing. This will come as a huge relief to many people. Those who live alone and have been isolated for many months can be with one another after vaccination. Couples who are vaccinated can see other fully vaccinated couples for dinner inside their private residences.

CNN: Is there a size limit to how many fully vaccinated people can get together?

Wen: Because vaccination status is so important, I would make sure that you trust that the people you are seeing are vaccinated. You should feel free to ask them directly and to see proof of vaccination. The larger the group, the more likely it is that you don't know someone in that group well. If you're not sure about their vaccination status, don't get together indoors with them.

CNN: What about dating? Can you and a partner finally get together if both are vaccinated?

Wen: Yes, if you and the person you've been dating are both fully vaccinated, you can certainly be with one another again. The issue of trust comes up here for people who are newly dating or if you're meeting up with someone you don't know well. Make sure to verify that the other parties truly are vaccinated. If you can't be sure, pass up on the in-person get-together or see those people outdoors only, spaced at least 6 feet apart.

CNN: What about visiting a family where some or all of the individuals are not yet vaccinated? A lot of grandparents really want to see their grandchildren.

Wen: The CDC provides very good guidance here that should be a relief to a lot of grandparents. They say that visits are fine for vaccinated people with unvaccinated people from a single household, as long as the unvaccinated people are at low-risk for severe Covid-19.

Let's say that both grandparents are vaccinated. They're visiting a so-called "mixed" household where only one parent is vaccinated and none of the children are. If all unvaccinated people in the household are generally healthy, that visit can happen -- indoors, without masks or distancing, with the grandparents free to hug their family.

This becomes trickier if someone in the house is at higher risk for severe Covid-19. This is where there is a lot of nuance and complexity. What if a parent, for example, has asthma and high blood pressure, or a child is immunocompromised? We know the grandparents are well-protected and probably have a substantially reduced risk of carrying coronavirus. I'd say that the safest thing is for the grandparents to reduce their other risks prior to seeing the family. For example, they shouldn't see other unvaccinated people in the 10 days preceding.

If you are unsure which underlying conditions put a person at higher risk for severe Covid-19 illness, you can look at the CDC's guidance, which is updated as more information from research becomes available.

CNN: What about a family reunion, with several families that have unvaccinated members?

Wen: The CDC is pretty clear here. This shouldn't happen, except outdoors, with masks and distancing. The key is that the unvaccinated people from different households shouldn't mingle, as they could be carriers and infect others.

CNN: A lot of families live apart from one another. What does the CDC say about traveling to see loved ones?

Wen: Here's where I disagree with the CDC's guidance. The CDC still discourages non-essential air travel, which would include visits to family. I don't think this meets a common-sense test. Another part of the CDC guidance says that fully vaccinated people don't need to quarantine if they are exposed to someone known to have coronavirus. That's a very high-level exposure. The risk of exposure on a flight or train or driving is already low. If someone is vaccinated, that risk is even lower.

I think that fully vaccinated people should feel free to travel to see their families, but of course please take every precaution during the travel -- including wearing a well-fitting mask at all times in public places, trying to stay physically distanced where possible, and washing hands well.

CNN: The CDC doesn't say much about other activities like going to the restaurant or the gym. What about these settings?

Wen: Again, this is where I disagree with the CDC's overly cautious guidelines. I understand that they don't want people to let down their guards completely, but clinicians know that we have to meet people where they are and address each situation with the nuance it deserves.

Let's say that someone is vaccinated and really wants to attend in-person church services and to go back to their senior center for indoor activities. The risk to them is very low, and their risk to others is also low. On the other hand, the cost of continued isolation is going to be high.

I think they should be able to return to the activities they most care about, while, again, making sure to wear masks and staying physically distanced. I'd go so far as to say that a couple that really wants to eat out in a restaurant again could do so occasionally but not night after night.

People should use caution and not go to crowded bars. Definitely make sure to wear masks in public. Just because something is open in your state, doesn't mean that it's safe to visit. We need to incentivize vaccination as the pathway to returning to pre-pandemic life, and work with people to reduce their risk.

CNN: What do you say to someone who wants to go to these: a church, a restaurant, a museum, a movie theater, a concert -- all indoors?

Wen: This is what I would say -- it depends on your individual situation.

First, look at your own risk factors. Remember that the vaccine is not a bullet-proof protection. It offers very good protection, especially against severe disease -- but there is still going to be some level of risk. Masks provide an additional very good layer of protection, as does distancing, ventilation and so forth.

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If you are very high risk yourself because of age and underlying medical conditions, consider limiting yourself to the CDC guidelines and see only other vaccinated people in private, social settings. If you have high-risk conditions but also have something that you really want to do, think about your own values and priorities. For some people, going to church service is so essential that the benefits far outweigh any possible risk, for example.

Then, look at the setting itself. A restaurant is still safest outdoors. Indoor dining has some risk, but again, if people are wearing masks except while eating and there's good spacing and ventilation, that risk is low enough for some people to choose to dine indoors after vaccination. The other settings are similar. Most museums allow for good distancing and should be fine. Look at the movie theaters and concert venues you're thinking of. If they offer good ventilation and spacing, and everyone is wearing masks, this will be relatively low-risk.

Vaccines offer so much hope. I think the CDC and the entire public health community needs to do a lot more to convey exactly how much incredible hope there is. We are not going to reduce risk to zero, but we can reduce it to a low enough level for vaccinated individuals to get back to a lot of pre-pandemic normal.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314710

Reported Deaths: 7254
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21646260
Hinds20369416
Harrison17949309
Rankin13643278
Jackson13450246
Madison10113217
Lee9986174
Jones8384163
Forrest7689152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6403148
Lamar623686
Lafayette6203119
Washington5341134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462998
Panola4596107
Pearl River4519146
Marshall4450103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420872
Monroe4115133
Union411176
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3969110
Hancock379586
Leflore3498125
Sunflower336290
Tate334784
Pike3327105
Scott316274
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311770
Itawamba300577
Copiah297465
Coahoma295579
Simpson295388
Tippah288768
Adams286982
Prentiss280060
Marion269380
Leake268473
Wayne262841
Grenada261587
Covington259881
George248148
Newton246862
Winston227581
Tishomingo227067
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208057
Holmes189174
Clay185554
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178941
Clarke178080
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164638
Smith162534
Walthall134245
Greene130633
Lawrence128724
Montgomery127142
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton100025
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67531
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 537813

Reported Deaths: 11024
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson791691529
Mobile41177808
Madison35002507
Tuscaloosa25871454
Shelby25076249
Montgomery24549591
Baldwin21290309
Lee15946171
Calhoun14556319
Morgan14364280
Etowah13890353
Marshall12262223
Houston10602282
Elmore10115206
Limestone10031151
St. Clair9890245
Cullman9730194
Lauderdale9449243
DeKalb8853188
Talladega8325176
Walker7259277
Autauga6971108
Jackson6830112
Blount6750139
Colbert6317134
Coffee5546119
Dale4869113
Russell444338
Chilton4343113
Franklin426282
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4040152
Escambia394577
Chambers3581123
Dallas3564153
Clarke351361
Marion3137101
Pike311977
Lawrence302298
Winston275673
Bibb263064
Geneva252577
Marengo249664
Pickens234862
Barbour231956
Hale223677
Butler217869
Fayette212462
Henry189644
Cherokee184345
Randolph182042
Monroe178140
Washington167639
Macon160750
Clay156957
Crenshaw153357
Cleburne149241
Lamar143035
Lowndes139653
Wilcox127430
Bullock123041
Conecuh110629
Coosa108928
Perry107826
Sumter104932
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
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