Doctor Explains How The CDC's New Guidelines Are A Game-Changer

This week marked a very positive step in the fight against COVID-19, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releasing new guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals that outline what they can safely do. Dr. Crystal Steed, a family medicine doctor at Austin Regional Clinic, talked exclusively to The List about what this guidance means, and whether those lucky enough to receive their immunizations can return to normal life.

Firstly, Dr. Steed explained what exactly the CDC is advising for fully-vaccinated people — meaning those who are two weeks past receiving their full set of shots. "The CDC says that it is now okay for fully-vaccinated individuals to interact with family and friends who are either also fully-vaccinated, or who are at low risk for a severe reaction to COVID," she explained.

"This is a big shift from prior guidance — giving the greenlight to socially interact as we used to, albeit in small groups of vaccinated and low risk people," Dr. Steed adds. "Vaccinated grandparents can now visit and hug their low risk grandchildren!" And of course, this is what so many older people have been waiting for.

Dr. Steed shared more good news from the CDC, noting, "Persons who are fully-vaccinated and happen to be exposed to someone positive for coronavirus do not need to quarantine." Masking and socially distancing is, however, still advised.

What the new CDC guidance means for the future

"The newest CDC guidelines for fully-vaccinated people should make us all hopeful that a return to normalcy — where we can hug and gather with our loved ones and friends — could be fast approaching, if we continue to follow the guidelines over the next few months," Dr. Steed told The List. She advised, "All three vaccines currently approved in the US for treating COVID — Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson — are very effective at minimizing this illness. Meaning, if vaccinated, you are very unlikely to be hospitalized or die due to COVID."

But Dr. Steed also shared an important note of caution, telling us about fully-vaccinated individuals, "You can still get the COVID virus and even spread it to others. This is why the new, relaxed guidelines still recommend wearing masks and social distancing in public or around high-risk individuals who have not been vaccinated."

Ultimately, Dr. Steed told us about the takeaway here, "To achieve normalcy in our community, we will need to work hard to get as many people as we can vaccinated and continue to mask and socially distance in public. If we can do this, we will reduce the spread of the virus and decrease the risk of resistant variants of COVID while we get the rest of the population vaccinated."

She concluded, "We still have a ways to go before that happens, but progress is being made every day and I'm optimistic we will get there."