It’s been more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It has been filled with canceled travel and weddings replaced with drive-by birthdays, baby showers and to-go meals. This pandemic affected us all with employers switching to remote work and children participating in virtual learning. It seems everyone’s routines were interrupted.
In late 2020, COVID-19 vaccines were rolled out and now, as more people are adding newly laminated COVID-19 vaccine cards to their wallets, they wonder if it is safe to resume everyday activities like grabbing brunch with friends. Recently, the CDC issued new guidance for those fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks past their final vaccination.
Tryon Medical Partners wants people who are fully vaccinated to follow these seven recommendations for safe socializing and remember the world is still trying to understand the true efficacy of these vaccines.
1. Continue to Take Precautions
The CDC recommends people continue to take precautions when in public spaces. That includes wearing a face mask, waiting six feet apart and washing hands often. It’s also a good idea to avoid gathering in large crowds, delay travel if possible and skip places that have poor ventilation.
2. Visit With Other Vaccinated Friends and Family
We’ve been cooped up for more than a year and itching to get out. It was great to hear the CDC say that fully vaccinated people can safely gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask. If your circle of friends is sporting their vaccination cards, go ahead and schedule that wine night or dinner with friends.
The CDC also states that you can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with family who all live together) without masks unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. This means grandparents who are fully vaccinated can safely see their unvaccinated grandchildren without having to wear a mask as long as they keep their interactions to a small group.
3. Stick to Outdoor Dining
While people may have a vaccination card, they should hold off on rushing back to their favorite restaurant for an indoor meal based on recent studies. While vaccination seems to reduce the spread of the virus, the possibility of a vaccinated person passing on COVID-19 still exists and this makes dining indoors risky. If people are going to dine out, they should follow these rules:
- Eat outdoors when available.
- Keep your group small, five or six people at most.
- Ensure all tables are at least six feet apart.
- Look for a restaurant where wait staff, cooks and other employees are all wearing masks.
- Wear a mask when congregating in the waiting area or visiting the restroom.
4. Enjoy Happy Hour Outdoors With Friends
While bars have had their curfew lifted and have been able to increase capacity to 50 percent, people still need to take precautions. If they are going to celebrate happy hour with friends, they need to strive for an outdoor patio experience, stay six feet apart from other patrons, wear their face masks and wash their hands.
5. Look For Safe Entertainment and Events
During the pandemic, live entertainment was the first to shut down and will likely be the last to reopen. If people are going to attend a live music event they should remember to choose an outdoor concert where ventilation is better, stay six feet apart, wear their face masks and keep their group small.
6. Travel Only if Essential
According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people are permitted to travel, but they are suggesting that everyone avoid non-essential travel. If people must travel, they should follow local guidance and the CDC’s requirements and recommendations.
If people are traveling and their destination requires it, they should get tested with a viral test one to three days before leaving and keep the test results with travel documents. No one should travel if they test positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to anyone who has tested positive for the virus.
While traveling, people should wear a face mask, wait at least six feet apart and routinely wash their hands or use hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol. Once they return home, they should consider getting a viral test three to five days later and self-quarantine for a full seven days even if their test results are negative. If anyone’s test results come back positive, they should isolate themselves for 14 days to protect others from getting infected.
7. Monitor Symptoms if Exposed to COVID
It’s worth noting that fully vaccinated people don’t have to quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 unless they start experiencing symptoms. If symptoms appear, they should get tested and stay home and away from others for the recommended 14-day time frame.
While being fully vaccinated opens a few social doors, we can’t let our guards down just yet. Researchers are still studying how long protection from the vaccines lasts, which will determine how often we could need booster shots. The virus could continue to mutate so that new versions of the vaccine could be needed in the future regularly, like the influenza vaccines. But researchers don’t know yet.
We are still learning about the protection the vaccine offers and providers continue to hear concerns from patients about stress levels, anxiety and overall mental health.
We know people are ready to socialize and get back to what they consider normal, but we have to be cautious. Remember to follow these recommendations, check out these post-vaccine do’s and don’ts, and if you have any concerns contact your Tryon doctor in person, via virtual visit or immediately through virtual urgent care.