On March 8, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines for small social gatherings among people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. It is important to note that these guidelines are not applicable in health care settings, so masking regardless of vaccination status will continue to be required of staff, support persons, visitors and patients in UPMC facilities.
According to the guidelines:
• Fully vaccinated Americans may gather indoors in private homes in small groups without masks or distancing.
• Vaccinated people may gather in a private residence with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for developing severe disease, also without masks or distancing.
• Vaccinated Americans do not need to quarantine or get tested if they have a known exposure to the virus, as long as they do not develop symptoms of infection. If they develop symptoms, they must isolate themselves, get tested and speak with their doctor.
The new advice is aimed at Americans who are fully vaccinated, meaning at least two weeks have passed since receiving their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, and those for whom at least two weeks have passed since receiving the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine. Following the guidance is also important to protect vulnerable family and neighbors from complications of COVID-19 disease.
“The new guidelines acknowledge vaccines are playing an important role in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on our lives,” explained Dr. Graham Snyder, UPMC’s medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology. “All three COVID-19 vaccines are incredibly good at keeping people from having serious complications and keeping people from being symptomatic. All are seemingly quite good at keeping people from being contagious if exposed, but they’re not perfect. We must continue to wear a mask and maintain physical distance when in public to protect yourself and others.”
The CDC encourages fully vaccinated Americans to continue to take steps to protect themselves and their community, like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. This is especially true when gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one household or visiting an unvaccinated person who is at an increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.
“Pandemics are dynamic,” warned Snyder. “It’s important to note that this is guidance for today and there’s a possibility in the future we may have to restrict activities again. I hope this is part of a stepwise process. As we do better in the pandemic, we can continue to make incremental changes toward normalcy.”