The CDC Is About to Announce This Major COVID Guideline Change

The agency could release new recommendations for fully vaccinated people by the end of the week.

Questions about when we will return to "normal life" have been on our minds since the pandemic's earliest days. But they've become even more pressing as the number of vaccinated people across the U.S. is increasing steadily. But now, we may be getting some solid answers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is preparing a COVID guideline change for those who are fully vaccinated, setting out new recommendations for how they can interact with others, Politico first reported. Read on to see what changes could be coming soon, and for more on what has already been cleared for anyone who is immunized, check out Dr. Fauci Just Confirmed You Can Do This After Getting Vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated people can gather in small groups under the new guidelines.

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According to sources within the agency, the CDC is currently finalizing a new set of recommendations that would allow anyone who is fully vaccinated to gather in small groups with others who are also immunized. The update, which could come as early as Thursday, would relax some of the restrictions that've been in place since the pandemic began.

The update would replace current CDC guidance, which says that "gathering virtually or with the people you live with is the safest choice." But while the change represents a major milestone in returning to normal life, those who are fully vaccinated will still be subject to other familiar health guidelines in public, such as wearing a face mask and social distancing. And for more vaccine advice you need to know, check out The CDC Says Don't Do This Within 2 Weeks of Your COVID Vaccine.

Gatherings of vaccinated friends and family could resume without masks.

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During a press briefing on March 1, Anthony Fauci, MD, chief COVID adviser to President Joe Biden, outlined some of the guideline updates being drafted and explained what the changes might look like. "I use the example of a daughter coming in from out of town who is doubly vaccinated, and a husband and wife doubly vaccinated, and maybe a next-door neighbor who you know are doubly vaccinated," he described.

"Small gatherings in the home of people, I think you can clearly feel that the risk—the relative risk is so low that you would not have to wear a mask, that you could have a good social gathering within the home." And for more vaccine news you should know, check out The Pfizer CEO Says This Is How Often You'll Need a COVID Vaccine.

Despite the changes, the current trajectory of cases is still a cause for concern.

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But during the same press briefing, CDC director Rochelle Walensky, MD, also drew focus back to the issue of the pandemic's current trajectory and cautioned that the fight against COVID was not yet over. "I want to really keep our eye on the fact that … cases are increasing right now, slightly," she warned.

"The goal is not to sort of open up travel, open up all things because … we're scaling up vaccination. The goal in those first 100 days has always been to sort of make sure that we are in a place to be out of this pandemic," Walensky emphasized. "At 70,000 cases per day, we're not in that place right now." Since the press conference, we've gotten the number down to about 50,000 new cases per day, but that is still too high, according to experts. And to see where new coronavirus cases are the highest, check out COVID Numbers Are Now Spiking Again in These 10 States.

The CDC says some states are prematurely letting their guard down as cases rise.

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News of the updated guidelines comes as many states begin to relax or entirely remove public health precautions, contrary to Walensky's warnings. "I think we at the CDC have been very clear that now is not the time to release all restrictions," she said during a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing on Mar. 3. "The next month or two is really pivotal in term of how this pandemic goes."

Her warning follows news that Texas, Montana, Mississippi, and Iowa announced they would drop statewide mask mandates, while Massachusetts, Arkansas, and New York began loosening capacity restrictions on businesses such as restaurants, bars, gyms, and performance venues.

Some public health officials, like Walensky, are concerned that any premature movement towards normal life could send us back in the wrong direction. "If you prematurely lift the restrictions… we have a few examples of the rebound back," Fauci told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press on Feb. 28. "Once you start pulling back, the thing you don't want is to have a plateauing at a level that's so high that, inevitably, things are going to go back up. And that's the reason why. We understand the need and the desire, understandably, to want to just pull back because things are going in the right direction. But you've got to get that baseline down lower than it is now. … So it's really too premature right now to be pulling back too much." And to see how your state is doing, check out This Is How High the COVID Risk Level Is in Your State, Data Shows.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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