February 12, 2021

What can we do now?

More and more of my friends and patients are reporting they have received at least one dose of vaccine or are scheduled. Everyone expresses relief. Many still wait. Getting people hooked up for their shot has been challenging, to say the least. The pressure is easing a bit, but finding a slot to get the vaccine is still a full time job. The winter snow storms aren’t helping since many vaccine clinics are cancelled and need rescheduling.

Similar improvements are happening in other states, but the supply continues to be an issue. However, Biden and his team have been working hard and reported yesterday that the US will have enough vaccine supply for all adults by the summer, but logistical hurdles remain, compounded by vaccine skepticism. Fauci optimistically says that in April, the age restrictions should ease and any one who wants should be able to get scheduled. Due to the sheer numbers though, they don’t expect to vaccinate enough for herd immunity until late summer.

But now that many of us are immunized, what can we do safely? Many of my musician friends are wondering can they jam together again? Can they hug their grandchildren? Can they eat in a restaurant again?

These are questions I am trying to wrap my hand around. At this point I don’t know the answer. The CDC has written new guidelines about quarantine if you have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Prior to vaccinations, quarantine lasted 14 days, or shorter if you could do testing preferable 2 times. Now they say you don’t have to quarantine after exposure IF you meet the criteria: fully vaccinated and it has been 2 weeks since your second vaccine ( or 2 weeks if you receive a single dose vaccine), that your last vaccine was less than 3 months ago (?!), and you don’t have symptoms. These are pretty conservative criteria. I am assuming that they have limited it to 3 months due to not knowing how long our immunity will last after the vaccine. But we are getting closer.

What this means to me is that I personally not going to broaden my social sphere until Jamie is fully vaccinated in March, since I really don’t want to infect him. For you, your circumstances may be different. You may have a bubble that is limited in their contact with others outside that group. They could probably be together in close contact safely. The point is I am protected from severe COVID-19 and death, but I still don’t know if I can infect others. The safety and directions are not clear to me yet, so I will be cautious and continue mask wearing and distancing for the moment. The new variants are what we are worried about, since we aren’t sure about vaccine effectiveness. I recommend this National Geographic article that explains the reasoning better than I can. Also I have quotes from the CDC website below that also explain some of the reasoning. Also here are the rules in Washington State now for Stage 2.

As far as playing tunes together after you all have been vaccinated, I think it depends. Masking and being outside are still the safest. I will update this as I learn more and more data is revealed.

The numbers of new infections is dropping after the post holiday surge, which means deaths will also start falling soon. Easy to get complacent, although some scientists are concerned there could be a fourth surge in the spring if restrictions ease too soon, before vaccinations are widespread enough. The problem with a surge is that as infections increase, so do the possibilities of new variants. The new strains with a mutated virus can potentially infect people who already had COVID-19. Scientists also worry that the new strains may get around those already vaccinated. We just don’t know enough. Some data is showing that the vaccines can decrease asymptomatic infections, there is not enough to stay it prevents all infections. This means we may be able to have a silent infection and pass it on even if we have been vaccinated.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six. Still, for a while longer.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.

<<Per the CDC:

However, vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • Are fully vaccinated (i.e., ≥2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series, or ≥2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine)

  • Are within 3 months following receipt of the last dose in the series

  • Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure

Persons who do not meet all 3 of the above criteria should continue to follow current quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.>>

<<Per the CDC:

While mRNA COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated high efficacy at preventing severe and symptomatic COVID-19, there is currently limited information on how much the vaccines might reduce transmission and how long protection lasts. In addition, the efficacy of the vaccines against emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants is not known. At this time, vaccinated persons should continue to follow current guidance to protect themselves and others, including wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often, following CDC travel guidance, and following any applicable workplace or school guidance, including guidance related to personal protective equipment use or SARS-CoV-2 testing.>>