Fully vaccinated, small groups can gather without masks, says CDC

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 09, 2021 10:38 AM CT | Published: March 08, 2021 2:58 PM CT
<strong>Infectious disease expert Dr. Manoj Jain (shown at a COVID-19 testing site on April 25, 2020) says he visited family over the weekend after being socially distant for a year. &ldquo;We have to show people the benefits of vaccination. If people don&rsquo;t experience and realize the benefits of vaccination, they will be reluctant to get vaccinated.&rdquo; </strong>(Jim Weber/Daily Memphian file)

Infectious disease expert Dr. Manoj Jain (shown at a COVID-19 testing site on April 25, 2020) says he visited family over the weekend after being socially distant for a year. “We have to show people the benefits of vaccination. If people don’t experience and realize the benefits of vaccination, they will be reluctant to get vaccinated.” (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian file)

People who got their second vaccine at least two weeks ago may now gather in small groups at home without wearing masks, according to guidance the Centers for Disease Control issued Monday, March 8.

For now, small groups mean 10 or fewer vaccinated people or unvaccinated people from one household.

For countless families, it means small family gatherings are now possible again.

“This is the very first way in which these fantastic vaccines can be shown to translate into public policy and recommendations that make our lives better because so many elderly people have been isolated from their family,” said Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, infectious disease physician at Baptist Hospital-Memphis.

The guidelines mean grandparents will be able to hug their grandchildren again, he said.

Although children have not yet been vaccinated, unless they have symptoms of COVID, they will largely fall into the low-risk category and are safe for people who are fully vaccinated.

The guidance does not extend to people who have received their second shot in the last 13 days or are still in the process of getting a second dose. 

“I’ve been looking forward to this recommendation for a few weeks now,” said Dr. Nick Hysmith, infectious disease physician at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. “It’s very encouraging that individuals who are fully vaccinated can get together in their private dwellings.

“I’m glad they also give some guidance for how fully vaccinated individual can interact with unvaccinated people as long as they are low risk. I didn’t fully expect that to be in there. I think it makes perfect sense; there still is obviously some of our population that hasn’t ben able to be vaccinated yet,” he said.

The guidance, he says, does not apply to meeting family or friends in public places. 

Those people now do not need to quarantine if they have been exposed to someone with COVID or get tested, unless they show symptoms themselves, the guidance says.

“We sure are ready for this,” said local resident Judy Horning. “We’ve been thinking of this for so long.”

Her husband, Daniel Amsler, had his second dose Feb. 23. On Wednesday, for the first time in nearly two months, he is going to golf with friends and likely will share a cart.

“I am willing to do that,” Amsler said.


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The guidance still includes an abundance of caution, including that people who have received both doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine continue to take precautions, including wearing masks in public places, keeping six feet of separation and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.

“We know that it’s not 100%, but it’s very freeing,” Horning said. “We are still going to be careful, but it really makes a difference how you feel emotionally about going out and about. I’m going to get a haircut tomorrow, and I haven’t had a haircut since the end of November.”

Dr. Manoj Jain, infectious disease physician who has been advising the City of Memphis on testing and vaccination protocols, visited family over the weekend after being socially distant for a year.

“We have to show people the benefits of vaccination. If people don’t experience and realize the benefits of vaccination, they will be reluctant to get vaccinated,” Jain said. “And if they do, they can do what we did over the weekend. It was really exciting. It felt really good. It had a been a year since we had time with our extended family to have a meal together. And the biggest thing was that we were comfortable and assured and reassured that what we were doing was as safe a practice as can be.”


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People who are vaccinated still need to wear masks if they are around unvaccinated people at risk for severe disease or who live with someone at severe risk. 

Gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one household is still not advised. The CDC still recommends delaying domestic or international travel. Those who choose to travel should follow CDC requirements

People who work still must follow workplace regulations.

“We know that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness and death,” the CDC said in a statement. “We’re still learning how effective the vaccines are against variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Early data show the vaccines may work against some variants, but could be less effective against others.”

Researchers are still learning how well COVID-19 vaccines keep people from spreading the disease.

“Early data show that the vaccines may help keep people from spreading COVID-19, but we are learning more as more people get vaccinated,” the statement said.

No one knows how long the vaccines offer protection.

“As we know more, CDC will continue to update our recommendations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.”

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Topics

Centers for Disease Control Judy Horning Daniel Amsler Dr. Manoj Jain
Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts

Longtime journalist Jane Roberts is a Minnesotan by birth and a Memphian by choice. She's lived and reported in the city more than two decades. She covers healthcare and higher education for The Daily Memphian.


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