JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines Monday for those who are fully vaccinated. The update gives the go-ahead for those who have received have received the last required dose of vaccine at least two weeks ago to gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or social distancing.
“That’s why I wanted to get the shot, one of the reasons, so you can get your life back for crying out loud,” said fully vaccinated 64-year-old Tim Stansbury. “If we’re going to get everybody’s life back in order, everybody needs to just go and get inoculated and get this over with because it’s not going to go away.”
Stansbury and his wife haven’t eaten inside of a restaurant since last March and typically spend their summers traveling in their camper.
“My wife and I have been to 34 states over the summers,” Stansbury said. “We have another trip planned to go out west and now we feel comfortable doing it.”
His wife will receive her first COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday.
Stansbury said, “I’m waiting on her to get her shots and get through this…we’re going!”
Like Stansbury, Jason Fagan, a Tri-Cities health care worker is also ready to travel and hopes the updated guidance encourages more people to get vaccinated.
“I think as soon as we do that, as soon as we’ll be back to normal and can go back to football games, concerts, basketball games…things like that that people enjoy going to,” said Fagan. “You might have an older parent that lives away and if they’ve been vaccinated and you’ve been vaccinated, you can go visit them now and have a little bit of peace of mind.”
Fully vaccinated people can also gather with unvaccinated people from another household without a mask as long as no one in the house has an increased risk of the virus.
But one local health official says some things should be considered before ditching the mask.
“The criteria to consider is whether those people are at risk or not. If you go into a household that is unvaccinated with someone at very high risk of complications, then you should practice good hygiene, masks, social distance,” said Dean of ETSU’s College of Public Health Dr. Randy Wykoff. “In larger group settings, out in public, it’s important for everyone to wear masks, even those who have been vaccinated.”
Wykoff called the update “good news” but cautioned that the threat of virus is still there.
“If you’re vaccinated, you are protected at least for some period of time but things are not over yet,” said Wykoff. “What’s really really important for people to understand is that this is not a blanket lifting of all criteria.”
Wykoff also says there is still a lot to be learned about the vaccines and how long they can protect against the virus.
“We don’t know how long immunity will last whether it’s from a vaccination or from natural infection,” he said. “It is possible for someone who has had the disease or had the vaccine to become infected. It is also possible that someone who is naturally immune might still be able to spread the virus. We simply don’t know.”
Predicting the future when it comes to vaccines can be almost as complicated as forecasting the impacts of COVID-19.
“The vaccination process didn’t start until a couple of months ago so no one can tell you what’s going to happen in six or nine months because we haven’t had that experience yet,” Wykoff said.
The CDC’s update also says if fully vaccinated people come into contact with the virus, they do not have to quarantine or be tested unless they show symptoms.
“The CDC still says, in public places, even fully vaccinated people need to follow guidelines,” said Wykoff. “They need to wear masks, physical distance and avoid crowds, cover coughs and sneezes and so on.”