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CDC Urges Continued Mask Use and Other Precautions as COVID-19 Vaccinations Proceed

  • CDC guidance suggests that vaccinated individuals can have private meetings without masks in many cases, but should still follow guidance while in public
  • Continued precautions encouraged until the “vast majority” of the population is fully vaccinated
  • Guidance comes as many states lift mandates and other COVID-19 precautions

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

Vaccinated individuals should continue to follow COVID-19 precautions in most circumstances, according to guidance released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control. The recommendations come shortly after the release of CDC research linking mask mandates with lower COVID-19 infection rates and on-premises restaurant dining with higher rates.

The CDC suggests that people who are fully vaccinated can meet other fully vaccinated individuals indoors without masks or while maintaining six feet of social distancing. The guidance also says that this type of meeting is safe when visiting with unvaccinated people from one other household as long as they’re at low risk for severe disease. In addition, the CDC says vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine or undergo testing if they have contact with someone who has COVID-19.

The CDC says the guidance “represents a first step toward returning to everyday activities in our communities,” and will continue to be updated in response to ongoing vaccinations, the latest infection data, and additional scientific data. However, it cautions that the “vast majority” of the populace needs to be fully vaccinated before broader precautions can be lifted.

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final dose of one of three COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use. The CDC estimates that only 9.2 percent of the United States population is fully vaccinated.

The CDC recommends that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people follow the public precautions of wearing a tight-fitting mask, maintaining social distancing from people who aren’t in their household, avoiding medium- or large-sized gatherings, following guidance issued by individual employers, and following CDC and health department travel requirements. Vaccinated people are also advised to follow precautions when visiting unvaccinated people from multiple households, or when in contact with unvaccinated people who are at higher risk of severe disease.

The recommendations come as several states have started to lift mask mandates and other restrictions. The CDC and other health officials have pushed back against these decisions, saying that lifting precautions to early increases the risk of a rebound in COVID-19 cases, especially as more infectious variants emerge.

Connecticut will be lifting capacity limits on most businesses beginning on March 19, but is retaining some precautions such as the continued shutdown of bars. The state is also maintaining a mask mandate and guidance for social distancing and sanitation.

The CDC recently released a study showing that mask mandates were associated with a decrease in COVID-19 infections and deaths within 20 days of implementation. The study also determined that on-premises restaurant dining resulted in more cases within 41 to 100 days after implementation and more deaths 61 to 100 days later.

The National Restaurant Association criticized the findings, saying the study didn’t control for other factors that may have contributed to higher infections and deaths, didn’t distinguish between indoor or outdoor dining, and unfairly blamed the food service industry for a large-scale trend. Restaurant organizations have long held that eateries that follow proper measures are safer than private social gatherings.

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