CHARLOTTE – On Tuesday, April 27, the White House COVID-19 Response Team announced new guidelines for vaccinated individuals.
In the live press briefing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky addressed the public, touting vaccination as a path back to doing the things we love. “Today is another day we can take a step back to the normalcy of before. Over the past year we have spent a lot of time telling Americans what they cannot do, what they should not do,” said Walensky. “Today, I’m going to tell you some of the things you can do if you are fully vaccinated.”
After reminding the public that “fully vaccinated” means 14 days past your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or after a single dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, Walensky proceeded to announce updated CDC recommendations for individuals who meet that criteria.
Most notably, fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a mask for the majority of outdoor activities, including small outdoor gatherings with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people and dining outdoors with friends from multiple households. The CDC continues to recommend masking in crowded outdoor settings such as packed stadiums and concerts, where there is less ability to maintain physical distance and more unvaccinated individuals are likely to be present.
Walensky also gave examples of activities vaccinated individuals can enjoy indoors safely while masked, such as attending a full capacity worship service, eating at an indoor restaurant, or participating in an indoor exercise class. A full guide to “Choosing Safer Activities” can be found on the CDC’s website.
The overall tone of the briefing was hopeful and encouraging, relying on the scientifically proven efficacy of all three vaccines currently being distributed in the United States to paint a brighter picture of the future. “I hope this message is encouraging for you,” said Walensky. “It shows just how powerful these vaccines are in our efforts to end this pandemic and why we are asking everyone to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated.”
While many vaccinated individuals are eager to return to some level of normalcy, the reality of doing so after a year of social distancing is complicated. For Mint Hill mom Kaitlyn Betts, who is fully vaccinated, the new guidelines validate conclusions she had already drawn on her own.
“I’ve followed the science since last summer,” says Betts, “and all the science has told us that as long as you’re outside, it’s a lower risk of transmission.” Even before the new guidelines were released, Betts had taken cautious steps forward, allowing her six-year-old son to play sports outdoors and eating outside with friends, for example.
However, Betts isn’t ready to burn her mask just yet. Although the CDC says vaccinated individuals only need to wear a mask outdoors in large crowds, you still might see Betts wearing hers if you walk up to her to have a conversation. Her reluctance reflects an apprehension ingrained in our culture over the past year of precautions that may not be easy to shake, a fear that there’s no such thing as being too careful when it comes to COVID.
Others feel the new guidelines don’t offer as much freedom as they’d hoped for. “In my humble opinion, these guidelines are too restrictive and, frankly, unrealistic,” said another Charlotte-area mom. “I understand vaccinated adults need to contribute to the culture of mask-wearing for now, but wearing masks outdoors isn’t necessary for anyone and only adds to overall mask avoidance when it is helpful. We need to focus on realistic guidelines to encourage compliance.”
The new CDC guidelines arrive as more than 54% of adults in the country have gotten at least one shot. “If you are fully vaccinated, things are much safer for you than those who are not yet fully vaccinated,” said Walensky on Tuesday. “This guidance will help you, your family, and your neighbors make decisions based on the latest science and allow you to safely get back to things you love to do. I am optimistic that people will use this information to take personal responsibility to protect themselves and to protect others, and I hope will encourage people to get fully vaccinated.”