After a year of social distancing, the CDC has finally given the green light for small, maskless, indoor gatherings. But only for those fully immunized, meaning that it has been at least 2 weeks from your second dose of the mRNA vaccines or at least 2 weeks if you got the single dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine. But the advice is still clear as mud, as demonstrated by this excellent XKCD cartoon.
Right now the CDC guidance is still restricted for several reasons, but will likely loosen up as more are vaccinated and we get more data. Some of the reasons for still restricting travel, eating in restaurants, avoiding large gatherings is that transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is ongoing with still a high level of infections. Fears of another wave of transmissions exists due to loosening of restrictions in some areas and the new variants that are more infectious. True, that the vaccines protect from serious illness and death and they also seem to decrease transmissions, but the data is still out.
As more are vaccinated, the guidelines will change. But for now our bigger concern is encouraging the hesitant to consider getting vaccinated. We already have data showing that infections and deaths spiked in states that allowed indoor dining.The disinformation that led people to feel that was safe is leading them to be skeptical of the vaccine. Interestingly, many Republicans (up to a third) say they "definitely won't" get a COVID-19 vaccine. The disinformation campaign has been effective and still continues, in particular by Russian intelligence agencies according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. These efforts will surely slowly down our recovery and lead to more infections and deaths.
Showing the benefits of the vaccine by allowing indoor visits and more can be a tool to encourage people to get vaccinated. I am hoping data will start to show more protection as well. At this point, travel is still discouraged. I wonder how many skeptics might change their mind if they could travel more easily again?
In the meantime, many of us wait patiently, edging closer to full immunity and visits and hugs with friends and family. Remember that many people are still lonely and isolated. Try to keep in touch during these lonely times. A project in Texas showed great benefit to homebound adults who were called 2-5 times a week by laypeople “just to talk”. The lay people, aged 17-23, were trained in empathetic conversational techniques. Loneliness, depression, and anxiety scores improved greatly. Such a simple gift.
Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, hug your friends 2 weeks after your final jab. And call someone to check in. You will feel better for it,