The COVID vaccine may be your passport to a safer return to "normal." And the CDC's new guidelines give you a better idea of what you can safely do after you've been vaccinated.

By Lisa Milbrand
March 08, 2021

As COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts ramp up, more people are fully vaccinated each day. The original CDC recommendations suggested that vaccinated people should continue social distancing, masking, and other behaviors to prevent the spread of COVID. However, the newest CDC guidelines, released today, allow a little more freedom for people who are at least two weeks past their final COVID vaccine shot.

If you're fully vaccinated, here's what you can do now, while we wait for herd immunity, expected later this year.

You can visit other fully vaccinated people

"What people really care about most is seeing loved ones," says Leana Wen, MD, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University. And the CDC guidelines say that if everyone in your house is vaccinated, you can now visit with other fully vaccinated households—indoors and without masks. 

You can visit unvaccinated people from a single household

The new CDC guidelines allow for vaccinated people to visit unvaccinated people from a single household, if the unvaccinated people are at low risk for serious disease—and you don't have to wear masks. (That means grandma may finally be able to come hug her grandkids!)

If you're getting together with unvaccinated people from multiple households, masking and social distancing are still required. "It's more complicated if there are people in the households who are not vaccinated," Dr. Wen says. 

You can skip quarantine if you've been exposed to COVID-19

This isn't a new recommendation, but CDC guidelines allow fully vaccinated people to skip quarantine and testing if they've been exposed to someone with COVID-19. (Though you still have to monitor for symptoms.)

You still need to wear a mask

The CDC still recommends wearing masks in public, minimizing exposure to crowded situations, and avoiding poorly ventilated situations. 

You can catch up on doctor's visits

This may not be the clearance you were hoping for, but post-vaccine is the perfect time to add those appointments back into your calendar. "If you've been putting off your mammograms, colonoscopies, dental care visits, they're definitely able to be done now," Dr. Wen says.

It could be the passport to something bigger

Eventually, proof of vaccination may be your ticket into things that give you a bigger sense of normal. "In time, all kinds of businesses will require vaccination as an entry point," Dr. Wen says. "I'd be surprised if we don’t see that in time. People will feel safer going on a cruise if everyone there has had a vaccine."