Critter Corner: Navigating the New Social Norms After Getting Vaccinated

Dear Oakley,

I am fully vaccinated and am trying to follow the new norms and get used to not wearing a mask or physically distancing myself. I disliked wearing a mask the past year because my glasses would always fog up, so I’m glad not to have to wear one anymore. Many people look at me funny though when I’m not wearing one, even though it’s what the CDC recommends. When do you think things will fully go back to normal and what are some recommendations for vaccinated people for what’s safe after the vaccine, since not everyone is vaccinated yet?

Thanks,

Nomar Masque

Dear Nomar,

As you mentioned, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued recommendations regarding what a vaccinated person can do. If you’re fully vaccinated, you can safely resume many activities without having to wear a mask or stay six feet away from others—unless required by law or by a particular business or workplace guidance, as you mentioned.

The CDC recommends that if you travel, you should still take steps to protect yourself and others. You must still wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

The CDC website has a helpful graphic of recommendations of things you should or should not do (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/participate-in-activities.html) if you are vaccinated or unvaccinated.

What’s Safe After Your COVID-19 Vaccine?

Here are some suggestions regarding some common topics about life after the COVID-19 vaccine, from Namandje Bumpus, Ph.D., an expert in pharmacology and molecular science at Johns Hopkins University:

Getting together with other people if you’re fully vaccinated for COVID-19:

Bumpus says, “a simple rule of thumb can work for planning get togethers:  unvaccinated guests should be from one household only.” She stresses that indoor gatherings, even small ones, with unvaccinated people from multiple households call for the same precautions you would take in public: wearing masks and physical distancing.

Hugging grandchildren:

Older adults are especially eager to interact with children in their families after more than a year of being apart. Bumpus says that “once grandparents are fully vaccinated, they can hug unvaccinated grandkids when those children are all living in one household and are not at high risk for severe disease (for example, immunocompromised kids).”

Getting together in person with adults from another household:

Bumpus suggests looking at each situation individually. “With children, relatives and friends, open and honest discussions are necessary, even more than we are used to,” she says. “Even if you have been fully vaccinated, when you are deciding about spending time in close proximity with older people and those with health problems, ask questions about vaccination and risk, and invite honest answers. Don’t assume that people are safe.”

Wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing in public if you’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine:

Until enough people have been vaccinated, public COVID-19 precautions are still important, even for fully vaccinated people. Although mask-wearing is now optional for fully vaccinated people who are outdoors and maintaining physical distancing, masks and physical distancing should be the rule at schools, restaurants, bars, gyms and other places where people gather, as well as public transportation, Bumpus notes.“People who have been fully vaccinated can feel safer when they are out among other people,” says Bumpus, “but we need to stay diligent about wearing face masks and practicing physical distancing.”

Social Norms are Still Being Figured Out

Despite the fact that more people are getting vaccinated and that there are new CDC guidances, the interpretation of that information and your friends’ comfort levels may be different. Hopefully things will become clearer as more people become vaccinated.

Hope this is helpful!

Oakley

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