The CDC reports that 165 million people in the US are fully vaccinated, and about 192 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. But as the vaccination program continues to lag across the country, virus infections have started to see a worrisome uptick – especially in areas like Arkansas and Louisiana where jab rates are low. What’s driving the increase? The delta variant. (Think: In May, delta infections represented only 1% of cases. But in only two months that number jumped to 83%.) In response to the latest findings, the CDC is recommending new guidelines for the fully vaxxed.
In July, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people (aka it’s been two weeks since your second Pfizer of Moderna shot or single dose of the J&J vaccine) should wear a mask indoors and in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission. Nearly 60% of all US counties have a high transmission status. And nearly 30% are considered substantial transmission. Here’s a map to determine if your county is considered high risk.
Keep in mind: “Vaccinated individuals continue to represent a very small amount of transmission occurring around the country,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “We continue to estimate that the risk of a breakthrough infection with symptom upon exposure to the delta variant is reduced by seven-fold. The reduction of 20-fold for hospitalizations, and deaths.”
Takeaway: Vaccinations are still the key to getting the rate of infections down across the country. And they do work in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
Meanwhile, if you’re vaxxed and have been exposed to COVID-19 the CDC recommends that you get tested 3-5 days after you’ve been exposed — even if you are not showing symptoms. More on what to do if you’re fully vaccinated and exposed here.
You can still resume activities you have previously done before the pandemic.
But you must continue to follow COVID-19 guidelines at your workplace and local businesses.
People who are immunocompromised or have weakened immune systems should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people — unless their health care provider advises differently.
Masks are still required on buses, trains, planes, and public transportation — and also in indoor transport hubs like airports and stations. But travelers are not required to wear their masks in outdoor settings like open decks on ferries or uncovered bus tops.
And, if you develop COVID-19 symptoms you'll need to put that mask back on and get tested. If you’re positive you’ll need to stay home and isolate yourself from others for at least 10 days or until you test negative.
If you’re not showing symptoms, you can forego quarantine. But you should continue to monitor yourself for symptoms for at least 14 days.
In early April, the CDC updated its travel guidelines, saying fully vaccinated people can travel within the US at low risk to themselves. And don’t need to be tested or quarantined afterward as long as they take precautions while traveling. Think: wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, washing their hands.
The agency also issued guidance on international travel. Here’s what it says about fully vaccinated people who’re heading out of the country…
You don’t need to get a COVID-19 test before travel unless it’s required by your destination
You don’t need to quarantine after coming back into the US unless it’s required by a state, tribal, or local jurisdiction
You still need a negative COVID-19 test result before hopping on a plane back to the US and to get a test three to five days after returning
You should continue to take precautions while traveling abroad (see: above).
If you’re not fully vaccinated, the CDC still says you shouldn’t travel unless it’s essential. But if you are planning to get away, here are some guidelines to stay safe. We also explain how the delta variant could impact your summer travel plans here.
There’s a lot of info out there about the COVID-19 vaccines. And it can be confusing to figure out where to begin (we've got some tips for that here). So to make your search a little easier, here are some websites and tools to help you get the info you need.
Plan Your Vaccine. This website helps you plan your vaccination visit. You can find out about eligibility, as well as vaccination sites near you. Info is available in English, Spanish, and Mandarin.
VaccineFinder. This tool helps you find clinics, pharmacies, and other locations that administer vaccines. You can filter it by the type of vaccine and how close or far away sites are. Heads up: info may be limited for some states as more providers update locations.
FAQs on COVID-19 vaccination. You might have some more Qs about the vaccine, including the side effects and the costs. Here are your answers, courtesy of the CDC.
What to know about the top COVID-19 vaccines. We Skimm’d how vaccines get developed and approved, and what you need to know about the top COVID-19 vaccines (aka Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and more).
Myths vs facts on the vaccines. There’s been false info spreading about them, like that they can alter your DNA or impact fertility. Experts from Johns Hopkins are setting the record straight, “MythBusters” style.
Best practices for posting about your vaccine on social media. The Better Business Bureau’s tip? Don’t share your vaccine card on social media. Here’s why and what to post instead.
When the pandemic started a year ago, the idea of having a COVID-19 vaccine at our disposal within months felt like a pipe dream. Now we’re facing new challenges (read: variants and low vaccine rates). But we have to keep up the fight against the virus as the country aims to get closer to herd immunity, and not let our guard down, which means taking the precautions necessary to stop the spread.
Last updated on August 4 – Updated to include the latest numbers on vaccination rates and county transmission statuses.
Last updated on July 28 — Added the CDC’s latest guideline on masks for fully vaccinated people.
Skimm'd by Maria Martinolich and Kamini Ramdeen
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