Vaccinated welcome to resume lots of life’s fun, CDC says

By , Daily Memphian Published: April 27, 2021 2:58 PM CT
<strong>Pre-COVID, the Memphis Tigers head onto the field against Ole Miss at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Aug. 31, 2019. With the easing of restrictions on outdoor activities, Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, infectious disease physician at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, said he expects football stadiums will safely reopen this fall.</strong> (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian file)

Pre-COVID, the Memphis Tigers head onto the field against Ole Miss at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Aug. 31, 2019. With the easing of restrictions on outdoor activities, Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, infectious disease physician at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, said he expects football stadiums will safely reopen this fall. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian file)

Vaccinated people are free to return to many normal activities without a mask, including dining on restaurant patios or having their hair cut in salons, according to guidance the Centers for Disease Control issued Tuesday, April 27.

It loosened rules for unvaccinated people too, saying they may safely run and bike unmasked with members of their household or attend small outdoor gatherings with vaccinated people.

But if there are unvaccinated people at the gathering, other unvaccinated people need to be masked, the guidance says.

Vaccinated people may safely attend a crowded outdoor event, such as a live performance, parade or sports event as long as they are wearing masks.

For the unvaccinated, these and a litany of other activities, including attending a full-capacity worship service, going to an indoor movie theater, eating inside restaurants or participating in indoor, high-intensity exercise classes are not as safe and still not recommended.

If unvaccinated people do choose to do these things, they must maintain six feet of separation, wear a mask and wash their hands. Vaccinated people only have to wear masks.


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


Dr. Chris Hanson, a pediatrician in private practice, is surprised the guidance was not more lenient. 

“I was expecting they would move out a little further, for example saying this summer it will be fine for everyone to be at pools unmasked,” he said.

He expects the CDC struggled to come out with guidance in a nation where the COVID reality on the ground still varies so much between states. 

“For example, my brother and sister-in-law live in Michigan. They are much more worried than we are here,” Hanson said.

In comments before the guidance was released, Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, infectious disease physician at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, predicted the CDC would lift restrictions on outdoor activities, saying “it is really sort of becoming far-fetched” to believe the disease is transmitted while people are out walking or jogging.

He expects football stadiums will safely reopen this fall.

“Maybe we don’t completely pack the house, but it is largely about ventilation, and we’ve seen this over and over again. It’s why outdoor activities have always been safer than indoor activities,” Threlkeld said.

The CDC said it cannot provide specific risk levels for every activity in every community, reminding people that it is important to always judge the situation and risk personally, including vulnerable people they may expose in their own lives.


Local leaders seeking advice on request to end mask mandate


But as vaccination rates have fallen roughly 20% from two weeks ago, and case numbers are averaging around 55,000 a day, public health officials echoed the message that people who are vaccinated now have more access to their normal lives and can pay less credence to the fact that some measures were also lifted for people who are not vaccinated.

“I think we have to begin to nuance the message a little bit and realize that these vaccines are the way out to a more normal life,” Threlkeld said.

“We have to put them into the reality of the freeing thing that they really are, because it will allow us to participate in activities. We can already do something,” he said.

Heretofore, he said, the message on vaccination has been framed from the negative viewpoint, as what people do to avoid getting sick or dying instead of what people do to return to their lives.

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Topics

Centers for Disease Control Chris Hanson Stephen Threlkeld
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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