But the agency’s advice is likely to disappoint many who hoped the increasing pace of vaccinations would immediately ease some common restrictions for those vaccinated.
The document will include a series of scenarios for Americans to consider, including where they socialize, who they can socialize with, and things to consider when making plans. It will also include a section on travel.
Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical officer to President Joe Biden, as well as CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky, presented an overview of the guidance at a press conference with reporters on Monday. Fauci said that while the guidelines were still being finalized, Americans “doubly vaccinated” could safely assemble at home.
“I use the example of a girl from out of town who is double vaccinated, and a double vaccinated husband and wife, and maybe a neighbor next door who you know is doubly vaccinated, ”Fauci said. “Small gatherings in people’s houses, I think you can clearly feel that the risk – the relative risk is so low that you wouldn’t have to wear a mask, you could have a good social gathering at home.”
In recent weeks, the CDC director has warned Americans in public press appearances that the emergence of new variants and increased transmission could threaten the progress the country has made over the past month with a decrease in hospitalizations, cases and deaths. On Monday, Walensky again called for caution.
“I really want to keep an eye on the fact that … cases are increasing right now, slightly. The goal is not in a way to open up travel, to open up everything because… we are intensifying the vaccination. The goal in those first 100 days has always been to get us out of this pandemic, ”Walensky said. “At 70,000 cases per day, we’re not in that place right now.”
The new CDC guidelines come two weeks after the agency released its recommendations for reopening schools. Since then, the agency has been criticized by school unions that the guidelines did not go far enough to ensure teachers receive vaccines before reopening. Republicans, meanwhile, say the CDC’s recommendations place too many restrictions on schools and limit their ability to open quickly.
Vaccination guidelines could spark a similar debate. With more than 76 million doses administered and infection rates falling, states across the country are considering advancing their plans to reopen. In Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker announced Monday that restaurants in the state would no longer be required to meet capacity restrictions. Several states, including Montana and Iowa, have lifted their mask warrants.
But Walensky insisted the country continues to adhere to strict public health guidelines and only proceed with a broad reopening when community transmission rates decline. The new CDC guidelines will reflect that sentiment, officials said.
Fauci, too, says he doesn’t want to move too fast towards reopening, pointing to the summer push and the decision by some states to open restaurants and bars.
“It’s a great lesson. In my mind, what happened at the start of last summer, when we said, ‘Okay, let’s try to open up the country and open up the economy,’ and we gave guidelines on the front door … there were two things about it that were problematic, ”Fauci told POLITICO.
“The first was that the baseline level of daily infections at that time was really pretty high. So you started out in a precarious situation, “he said.” The second problem is that many states have not adhered to the reopening guidelines. The reason I’m coming back to this story is that, as the level of cases is very low… and more and more people are vaccinated, you’re going to have to step back in a very measured way. You can’t turn it into a switch. “
The Biden administration has stepped up its vaccine distribution efforts in recent weeks, promising further increases in doses shipped in the coming months. Health officials expect vaccine supply to increase dramatically with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine clearance last weekend. The company is expanding its manufacturing capacity through a new partnership with Merck, which President Biden will speak on Tuesday afternoon.