The CDC released a new set of COVID-19 guidelines for vaccinated and non-vaccinated people, and one of the biggest changes has to do with group gatherings. According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people are defined as people who have been vaccinated with both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for two weeks. And under the new guidelines, fully vaccinated people can:

  • gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
  • gather indoors with unvaccinated people from another household (for example, visiting family members who all live together) without masks, as long as none of these people or anyone they live with has a higher risk of serious COVID-19 disease. Underlying conditions that put you at high risk include serious heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and chronic kidney disease.

This is positive news for obvious reasons. This means that, as New York Times pointed out, fully vaccinated grandparents or parents can now safely visit unvaccinated, healthy children or grandchildren (as long as the children and grandchildren are in a household) without having to wear masks or social distance. It is a big step towards reuniting friends and family, but before we go any further, we must point out that the new guidelines come with some caveats. Fully vaccinated and non-vaccinated people should still wear a mask, stay six meters apart and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated areas when:

  • they congregate with unvaccinated people from more than one household.
  • they are public.
  • they visit an unvaccinated person who has an increased risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, or who lives with someone at increased risk.

The CDC also recommended avoiding “medium-sized or large gatherings” and traveling even if you are fully vaccinated.

Why did the CDC change the guidelines on group meetings?

Experts have still not conclusively proven that vaccinated people can not be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, which is one of the reasons why they are still advised to continue wearing masks and social distancing in public. However, the CDC noted that “a growing body of evidence suggests that fully vaccinated humans are less likely to have asymptomatic infection and potentially less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others.” The investigation is ongoing, the agency said.

So why lift some of the restrictions on social gatherings now? Richard Besser, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a former acting director of the CDC, said in a statement to Associated Press that he hoped the new guide would provide “a momentum for everyone to be vaccinated when they can,” while giving states “the patience to follow the roadmap for public health needed to reopen their economies and communities safely. “

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, reiterated this sentiment in her press briefing earlier today, calling the new guide a “first step towards returning to everyday activities in our society.”

Can I gather in groups under the CDC’s new guidelines?

If you are fully vaccinated, this guide means you can spend time indoors with unvaccinated people as long as they come from a single household and are not at high risk for severe COVID-19. If you are unvaccinated and do not have a high risk of severe COVID-19, it is the same: you can be with fully vaccinated people as long as you do not include other unvaccinated people who are not in your household. Regardless of your vaccination status, you should still avoid medium or large groups and any unnecessary travel.

Data and new evidence may lead to changes in these guidelines, and as Dr. Walensky said this is not “our final destination.” But with more Americans being vaccinated, “a growing body of evidence now tells us that there are some activities that fully vaccinated people can resume at low risk for themselves,” she explained. This is good news and even more of a reason to continue to take all the CDC’s recommended precautions (wearing face mask, social distance, washing your hands thoroughly and often and getting the vaccine when it’s your turn) to keep us moving .

POPSUGAR aims to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information on COVID-19, but details and recommendations regarding this pandemic may have changed since its release. For the latest information on COVID-19, please see resources from WHO, CDC and local public health departments.