US says fully vaccinated people can meet without masks

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that fully vaccinated Americans can return to some sense of normalcy.

Those who have received the required jabs can visit with other vaccinated people and some unvaccinated people, according to the new guidelines.

People are considered protected two weeks after they take the final dose of their vaccine, the CDC said.

Over 30 million Americans have been fully vaccinated thus far.

Health officials announced the new safety guidelines at Monday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing.

The recommendations say fully vaccinated Americans can:

  • Meet indoors with other fully vaccinated people without masks or social distancing
  • Meet indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household, if they are at low risk for severe illness from the virus
  • Skip testing or quarantine when exposed to Covid-19, unless symptoms appear

But they should continue to:

  • Avoid non-essential travel and large crowds
  • Continue to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing in public

The CDC said there was still a risk vaccinated people could spread the disease to the unvaccinated, as data on this remains sparse. The new guidelines in particular call for mask wearing and distancing from those who are unvaccinated and may be at an elevated risk of serious Covid-related complications.

CDC senior adviser Andy Slavitt told reporters: “We’ve begun to describe what a world looks like as we move beyond Covid-19. As more and more people get vaccinated… the list of activities will continue to grow.”

The US has seen a recent uptick in the number of inoculations per day. Over 90 million vaccines have been administered to date.

The approval of a third vaccine, Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose jab, to join the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech versions, has also helped boost supply.

But health officials warn that Covid-19 is still a serious concern.

“Over 90% of the population still has not been vaccinated,” CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said.

“Our responsibility is to make sure, in the context of 60,000 new cases a day, that we protect those who are vulnerable.”

The US has reported over 29 million virus cases and 525,000 deaths.

Dr Walensky added that the guidance would continue to be updated “as more people get vaccinated and science and evidence expands”.

Mr Slavitt said it was a “very hopeful morning but with continued warning signs for the future”.

‘Missed opportunity’

However, Dr Leana Wen, a public health expert and the former Baltimore health commissioner, told the Associated Press the new guidance was “far too cautious”.

Dr Wen said the CDC was “missing a major opportunity to tie vaccination status with reopening guidance”.

“By coming out with such limited guidance, they are missing the window to influence state and national policy,” she said.

More than 20 travel and aviation groups wrote to the White House on Monday calling for a temporary health documentation system to boost travel.

The group said it opposed making vaccination “a requirement for domestic or international travel”.

Later on Monday, the White House announced that President Joe Biden would deliver his first primetime address this Thursday to mark one year under Covid-19 lockdown measures.

Last week, Mr Biden said the US would have enough coronavirus vaccines for every adult by the end of May.

BBC