CDC announcement says vaccinated people may gather with other unmasked vaccinated residents

This illustration shows a healthcare professional vaccinating someone with the second Covid-19 vaccine, while simultaneously removing their mask. This represents the new CDC statement that fully vaccinated people can gather without masks. 

Jeremiah Estrada, News Contributor

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement saying that vaccinated people are allowed to gather with one other without wearing a mask, yet it is still important to follow other COVID-19 guidelines.

The announcement was made on March 7, 2021, stating this new guideline that those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine can follow. As of April 15, 2021, 23.4% of Oregon’s population have been fully vaccinated and on April 19, 2021, people who are age 16 and over are eligible to get one. Although this lifts a restriction for certain people, it is advised to continue being cautious such as if an individual is fully vaccinated or not.

According to Kelly Locey, Benton County Health Department communications coordinator, people are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they have gotten the second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the same applies two weeks after they have gotten the single dose. They will also be able to refer to their vaccine card they received when they were vaccinated to see if they have gotten both doses.

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Downfalls to this new rule include how none of the COVID-19 vaccines are 100% effective. Locey said that one of the most important questions about the vaccine is whether or not a vaccinated person can get infected and pass the virus to someone who is not vaccinated. Because of this uncertainty, people should still continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, even if they have gotten the vaccine.

“The main concern would be with fully vaccinated people letting their guards down too much and perhaps forgetting to wear their masks and practice physical distancing around others who may not be fully vaccinated, or whose vaccinate status is unknown,” said Jonathan Modie, Oregon Health Authority lead communications officer.

Modie said that the effectiveness of the vaccines against variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 is still being discovered. Early data show the vaccines may work against some variants, but could be less effective against others.

According to Adam Brady, Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center Coronavirus task force chair, the current CDC guidance discourages people of different households from gathering whether or not they are vaccinated. As more people become vaccinated, these rules will loosen and will likely evolve to permit larger and larger gatherings in the future.

“I wouldn’t use the term ‘safe’ since the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing, but your risk is low if you are fully vaccinated and gathering with others who are fully vaccinated,” Modie said. “As long as the gatherings are kept within a certain number of people depending on the risk level for the county in which the gathering is taking place.”

Locey said that the Oregon Health Authority is currently following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for those who are fully vaccinated at the moment. This group is still under the same guidelines as those who have not been vaccinated. Individuals and businesses are still required to follow their state and local COVID-19 restrictions.

It is recommended that fully vaccinated people continue taking steps to protect themselves and others. This includes wearing a mask, staying at least six feet apart from others and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. These precautions should be made when in public, gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one household and visiting an unvaccinated person with an increased risk of severe illness or of contracting COVID-19.

“Once more and more of the population gets the vaccines, we will start to see cases and hospitalizations decrease,” Brady said. “Then, I am hopeful we will start to see restrictions being lifted. Until that happens, we need to remain vigilant to ensure that cases stay low while we increase our vaccinations.”