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Vaccinated already? Here’s what you can do

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The guidance, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, came almost a year to the day after the coronavirus first gripped the United States and Americans were told to avoid large groups to stop the spread of the deadly disease.

The CDC recommendations are welcome news for people who have been separated from loved ones for months on end and are struggling with isolation: Fully vaccinated grandparents can visit their healthy adult children and grandchildren in certain cases, even if they’re not vaccinated. And vaccinated adults can finally plan maskless dinners together with vaccinated friends.

“It’s science-based. It’s sensible. You can hug your grandkids again. If you’ve been waiting to get a haircut, see the dentist, you can do that,” former CDC Director Tom Frieden said on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”

Still, the good news is heavily caveated. Travel, even for those who’ve been vaccinated, is advised against — though some prominent medical experts said the CDC is being overly cautious. And the threat of pernicious Covid-19 variants may be about to inflict another surge of death and sickness, again testing the patience of a weary nation, Stephen Collinson writes.

But the announcement of the guidelines on Monday was a striking moment after 12 months of pain and heartache, signaling the first step in a real — albeit restrained — return to normal life for the 30 million Americans already fully vaccinated.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.

Q: What are fully vaccinated Americans allowed to do?

A: The new CDC guidance says fully vaccinated people can:
  • Visit other vaccinated people indoors without masks or physical distancing.
  • Visit indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household without masks or physical distancing, if the unvaccinated people are at low risk for severe disease.
  • Skip quarantine and testing if exposed to someone who has Covid-19 but are asymptomatic, but should monitor for symptoms for 14 days.

But people who are fully vaccinated still need to take precautions in many scenarios:

  • Wear a mask and keep good physical distance around the unvaccinated who are at increased risk for severe Covid-19, or if the unvaccinated person has a household member who is at higher risk.
  • Wear masks and physically distance when visiting unvaccinated people who are from multiple households.
  • Keep physical distance in public.
  • Avoid medium- and large-sized crowds.
  • Avoid poorly ventilated public spaces.
  • Wash hands frequently.
  • Get tested for Covid-19 if you feel sick.
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WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

Highly contagious variant is rapidly spreading across US

A safer future is just a few months away, but public health experts say it’s crucial that Americans keep practicing Covid-19 safety precautions as the country works to vaccinate more people and new variants spread.

The highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the UK is now rapidly spreading across the US and, according to the CDC, will likely become the predominant variant this month and could fuel another dangerous spike in infections.

Dr. Chris Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), said his team’s projections show the pandemic slowly improving, but in a “worst scenario, where people stop wearing masks faster, start having gatherings faster,” they predict an April surge.

Airline industry responds to CDC guidance

The airline industry is pushing back against the guidance that fully vaccinated people should avoid travel.

Industry group Airlines For America insisted in a statement on Monday that being ona plane poses a low risk of infection because of heavily filtered air and federally mandated mask wearing. “We remain confident that this layered approach significantly reduces risk,” the group said.

This is the second pandemic-related disagreement between the airline industry and the new Biden administration. The transportation industry pushed back hard earlier this year when the CDC was considering requiring that domestic travelers get tested for the coronavirus at the start of their trip. The White House met with airline CEOs, and the idea fell apart.

Spring break could be a perfect storm for spreading variants

Spring break starts for hundreds of universities this month. And the typical revelry could lead to countless more Americans getting infected as coronavirus variants threaten to outpace vaccinations, Holly Yan writes.

“It’s the perfect storm,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “You’ve got the B.1.1.7 variant accelerating in Florida. You’ve got all these 20-year-old kids. None of them are going to have masks. They’re all going to be drinking. They’re having pretty close, intimate contact. And then, after that’s all done, they’re going to go back to their home states and spread the B.1.1.7 variant.”

ON OUR RADAR

  • The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine neutralizes a variant first detected in Brazil, a laboratory study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests.
  • Japanese medical equipment maker Terumo says it is making a syringe to draw 7 doses from Pfizer vaccine vials — at least one more than accessible with existing syringes, Reuters reports.
  • Parents protesting Idaho’s mask mandate encouraged their children to burn masks at a rally — supported by some lawmakers — on the Capitol building’s steps over the weekend.
  • Greece is mourning the country’s youngest Covid-19 victim, a 37-day-old baby, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted on Monday.

TOP TIPS

Last week, President Joe Biden criticized states, including Texas and Mississippi, for lifting Covid-19 restrictions, including mask mandates. He accused governors in those states of “Neanderthal thinking.” At least fifteen states — representing 30% of the country — don’t require face masks.

With more than 500,000 Americans dead and new emerging variants of the virus, health experts warn that such policies could prolong the pandemic and result in more lives lost.

These are five reasons why experts say you should wear a face mask, even if your state doesn’t require it.

TODAY’S PODCAST

“Some people will be able to see and hug friends and family for the first time in a year.” — CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta

You may be able to see your friends and family again. On today’s podcast, Dr. Gupta discusses the latest CDC guidance on small gatherings for those who are vaccinated. Listen now.

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