The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance on Monday that permits fully vaccinated people to gather indoors with a small number of unvaccinated people, but still recommends masking and social distancing in public places.
"There are some activities that fully vaccinated people can resume with minimal risk," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky at a press briefing.
After receiving the second dose of a vaccine (or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot) and waiting the necessary two-week period, vaccinated individuals can safely socialize with other vaccinated people, since there is virtually zero risk of a severe negative health outcome. The vaccinated can gather with the unvaccinated as well, but because it's theoretically possible for vaccinated individuals to transmit COVID-19 to the unvaccinated, the CDC is recommending that these gatherings include only members of one household—and no one who falls into a COVID-19 risk category (such as the elderly).
But in many other circumstances, the vaccinated are expected to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing, and they should continue to obey travel restrictions.
"Our travel guidance is unchanged," said Walensky.
The guidance recommends masking and social distancing for the vaccinated when they are out in public, and they should still avoid crowds and large gatherings. No one specifically mentioned restaurants during the briefing, but a vaccinated individual who is serious about following the new guidance would have no choice but to continue avoiding them. And while the CDC could have used this opportunity to clarify that outdoor spread appears to be a rarity, there was no mention of the fact that it's probably extremely safe for vaccinated people to be unmasked outdoors, even in groups.
Indeed, the CDC's guidance was impractically cautious, which is entirely unsurprising. Government health officials are known for making unhelpful proclamations that are entirely at odds with human behavior.
While it was good to hear the CDC finally admit that vaccinated people can gather with other vaccinated people, there is a wider swath of human activity that is in all likelihood extremely safe. Don't hold out for the CDC's blessing: Get the vaccine and get back to normal.