The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is expected to release new guidance on Thursday permitting fully vaccinated people to gather indoors, in small numbers, without masks or social distancing. It's encouraging that the agency is giving even this much ground, because top government health officials and leaders—everyone from Bill de Blasio to Anthony Fauci to President Joe Biden himself—have routinely stressed that vaccinated Americans should keep taking all the same precautions. (De Blasio urged the vaccinated to wear not just one mask, but two.)
Still, the CDC will likely recommend that the vaccinated continue to be cautious when in public, even though there's now solid evidence that vaccines significantly reduce transmission (rather than just serious disease), and even though case numbers are plummeting and the most at-risk population—the elderly—is rapidly becoming immune through vaccination.
Biden has said that there will be vaccines for all Americans who want them by the end of May, meaning the effective end of the pandemic could be weeks away. But anyone who is waiting for the CDC to give permission to resume life as normal will be waiting much longer.
It's important to keep in mind that the CDC has always urged people to follow impractically cautious health guidelines. For instance, the CDC currently recommends that men consume no more than two alcoholic drinks and that women consume no more than one drink, each day. The agency's clear preference is for people not to consume alcohol at all. It recommends that all women who possess the capacity to be pregnant abstain from drinking entirely. It would be very funny, then, if the CDC suddenly published guidance that it was once again safe to flock to bars and restaurants. That's not something the CDC believed, even in normal times. If COVID-19 vanished from the earth overnight, government health officials would still urge you to never eat raw cookie dough.
Various officials have stressed that things might be completely normal by next year, while others have said they still expect mask-wearing until Christmas. The truth is that people should be prepared for government health experts to preach excessive caution indefinitely because that's what the experts have always done. Normal does not mean the CDC grants permission to enjoy life again; normal means ignoring the CDC and enjoying life anyway.