CDC says it’s safe for vaccinated people to gather indoors

Long-awaited guidance from federal health officials on Monday suggested it is safe for vaccinated people to gather together indoors, offering a sneak peek into the post-COVID future.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are two weeks past their final shot (or the only shot, if it’s from Johnson & Johnson) may visit indoors with each other without masks, as well as with unvaccinated members of a single household, at low risk of severe disease.

The CDC also recommends vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine or get tested if they come into contact with someone with COVID-19 and do not develop symptoms.

But the agency did not update its travel guidance, so it is still trying to discourage people from traveling long distances for family visits even if everyone is vaccinated.

“Every time we have a surge in travel, we have a surge in cases in this country,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters Monday.

The U.S. is still in the midst of a pandemic, and even though cases have been declining on average, the country is averaging close to 60,000 new infections a day.

“Our guidance must balance the risk to people who have been fully vaccinated, the risks to those who have not yet received the vaccine, and the impact on the larger community transmission of COVID-19 with … the overall benefits of resuming everyday activities and getting back to some of the things we love in life,” Walensky said.

Vaccination messagingThe CDC guidance explicitly linked the lifting of certain restrictions with vaccine uptake, and acknowleged that some of the “zero sum” messaging about life not changing for the vaccinated will have a negative impact.

“Maintaining a requirement to continue all prevention measures after vaccination may disincentivize vaccine uptake,” the CDC wrote. “A balanced approach to phasing out certain prevention measures may be a powerful motivator for vaccination.”