With the numbers of vaccinated individuals across Massachusetts increasing, people are asking what vaccination means for their lifestyle. What changes can we make to get us back to doing the things we enjoy?
For the fully vaccinated, you now have more options to consider when it comes to participating in your favorite activities. Since everyone’s risk tolerance and priorities are different, there is still much to consider. Recommendations from public health officials and your levels of risk are likely to change over time as more information becomes available. For instance, the level of infection in your community and the possible effects of variant strains, are all risk factors. Human connection is important as is our need to support our emotional wellbeing by participating in simple pleasures like going to the gym, having lunch with friends or traveling. We all long for the day when these activities will become safe again. To help guide you, we asked our Infectious Disease experts to share what the latest CDC guidelines mean for returning to "normal".
The CDC released new guidance for fully vaccinated individuals on March 8, 2021. View guidelines >
Is it safe to visit with my family and friends?
New guidance from the CDC says it is now okay to:
- Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
- Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
- Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic
The CDC also cautions fully vaccinated people to continue to:
- Take precautions in public by wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing along with other guidance about visiting indoors. Read more here.
Tufts Medical Center created the below image to help people evaluate the risk factors involved with gatherings as below.
Is it safe to stop wearing a face mask?
Unfortunately, no one is giving out special hats we can wear to announce to others our vaccination status. When in public or at work, we must continue to wear our mask and keep our distance from others. In private settings, however, the risk is reduced if all individuals have been vaccinated. You can use the above risk scale on gatherings to guide your decision on whether to wear a mask around certain individuals.
Is it safe to hug my parent/grandparent/child/grandchild/etc.?
Many of us miss hugging our loved ones, yet doing so is not without risk. The risk scale above provides guidance for you on whether to hug your loved ones or to maintain a safe distance. Now that you are vaccinated, you can feel comfortable knowing that you are VERY unlikely to need hospitalization or ICU care in the unlikely event that you become infected with COVID-19 as a result of that close contact. It is important to weigh your priorities and those of your loved ones when you make decisions about hugging.
Is it safe to go to a gym/restaurant/movie theater?
If you are fully vaccinated, it’s very unlikely you will get seriously ill if you go to a public place like a gym, restaurant or movie theater. However, in such settings, it’s impossible to know whether others are immune to COVID-19 or how vulnerable they are to severe complications of COVID-19 were they to become infected. So while it is safe for you, and permitted in the state of Massachusetts, be sure to wear your mask and keep your distance to six feet. These small steps protect the unvaccinated and/or vulnerable in the unlikely event that you have asymptomatic infection.
Is it safe to travel?
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health recently removed travel restrictions for individuals who have been fully vaccinated. Learn more >
The CDC continues to discourage travel for all Americans. Infection rates are extremely high, the incidence of new infection due to variant viruses is increasing, and we are therefore in a “race between infections and injections.” It is critical not to do anything that could risk moving a variant virus around the country or the world. For those that must travel, you can feel confident in the protection provided by your vaccine as you continue to practice public health measures such as mask wearing and hand hygiene.
The CDC offers further precautions on travel here >
Do I need to quarantine and/or be tested if I am exposed to someone with COVID-19?
The CDC guidance says that fully vaccinated people with no COVID-like symptoms do not need to quarantine or be tested following an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
On March 8, 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health also says that those who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine following an exposure. Learn more >
Do I need to be tested if I develop symptoms that might be consistent with COVID-19?
Yes you do, even if you are fully vaccinated.
I’m worried about how long my vaccine will work, and will it be effective against the new variants of COVID-19?
Health authorities are closely watching the vaccinated population for signs of breakthrough infection that might indicate either that vaccine effect is wearing off or that a new variant is evading the immunity provided by the vaccine. The data so far are promising. Experts believe it is likely that your vaccine will protect you for at least a year, maybe several years, and that it will protect you from severe illness and death due to variants, even those that show the ability to partially evade the immune system. If there are signals to the contrary, vaccine companies will be ready with booster vaccines, and the FDA has said that the companies will not need to conduct long clinical trials again to prove they are safe.