COVID-19 Updates: CDC Releases First Guidance for Fully Vaccinated People, and Other Coronavirus News

Fully vaccinated older woman dining indoors with her family without wearing mask

At least 117 million cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been diagnosed worldwide as of Monday evening, March 8, 2021, including at least 2.6 million deaths. Healthcare officials in the United States have reported at least 29.1 million positive COVID-19 cases and at least 525,000 deaths. Source: Johns Hopkins University & Medicine

At least 305 million individual does of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered worldwide as of Monday evening, including more than 90 million in the United States. Source: GitHub

CDC releases first guidance for fully vaccinated people

Individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing, according to new guidance announced by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

According to CDC officials, the current guidance will continue to be updated and expanded upon based on the level of community spread of the virus, the proportion of the population that is fully vaccinated, and the rapidly evolving science on COVID-19 vaccines.

“Fully vaccinated” is defined by the CDC as those who are at least two weeks removed from receiving the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or at least two weeks removed from receiving the Johnson and Johnson/Janssen vaccine.

Other safe activities for fully vaccinated individuals include visiting indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease without wearing masks or physical distancing, as well as refraining from quarantine and COVID-19 testing following a known exposure if they remain asymptomatic.

However, fully vaccinated people should also be reminded that they should continue to:

  • Take precautions in public, such as wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing
  • Wear masks, practice physical distancing, and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease
  • Wear masks, maintain physical distance, and practice other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households
  • Avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings
  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Follow guidance issued by individual employers
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations

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Although the risk that fully vaccinated people could become infected with COVID-19 is low, any fully vaccinated person who experiences symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should isolate themselves from others, be clinically evaluated for COVID-19, and tested for the virus if indicated, officials said.

Fully vaccinated residents of non-healthcare congregate settings, such as correctional and detention facilities, should continue to quarantine for 14 days and be tested for the virus following an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 because these settings may face high turnover of residents, a higher risk of transmission, and challenges in maintaining recommended physical distancing.

Fully vaccinated employees of non-healthcare congregate settings and other high-density workplaces, such as manufacturing plants, with no COVID-like symptoms do not need to quarantine following an exposure; however, testing following an exposure and through routine workplace screening programs, if present, is still recommended, according to the CDC.

LGBT and minority populations more reluctant to be vaccinated

Although research shows that sexual and gender minorities, and especially people of color, are more likely to be infected with the coronavirus and have underlying conditions that could increase the potential for severe illness, these populations are reportedly also more likely to turn down vaccination.

According to a recent report by the New York Times, due to trust issues regarding the healthcare system, members of these patient cohorts are less likely to have “a healthcare provider with whom they feel comfortable sharing their concerns.” The article cites research that claims lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and people of color were twice as likely as white non-LGBT individuals to test positive for COVID-19.

Those quoted in the article discussed what they see as racial bias that is still found in healthcare and general discrimination experienced by sexual and gender minorities. Other concerns reportedly include fears among those who have received silicone injections or hormone replacement therapy, due to concerns about potential side effects. A lack of data about the LGBT population is also cited as a concern.

Fewer people being tested for COVID-19

A steep drop in the average number of tests being given across the United States has health officials worried that not everyone who is sick is willing to find out. According to a recent report by the Washington Post, the number of daily tests has decreased by 33.6% since January, citing the Covid Tracking Project.

While some of the drop off can be associated with a fewer number of cases and the overall improvement of the pandemic throughout the country, there is belief that people who are experiencing symptoms are choosing to not get tested because it is considered to be time-consuming and/or because people do not want to quarantine following a positive test.

The country’s rolling daily average of tests conducted peaked on January 15 at approximately 2,270,000 tests, the report states. The daily average has dipped as low as 1,290,000 on February 21. Storms that caused many people to lose power and water in Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana are also being blamed for the disrupted testing in these states.

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