Staying safe after you get the vaccine

New CDC guidelines allow more flexibility for those who are vaccinated

As more and more people become vaccinated against COVID-19, the list of things those individuals can do continues to grow.

For example, fully vaccinated Americans are now more free to move about the country, according to new guidelines released April 2, 2021, by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to these new recommendations, if you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You can now travel within the U.S. and don’t need to be tested for COVID-19 before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.

  • You don’t need to get tested for COVID-19 before leaving the U.S. (unless required by the destination) or self-quarantine after arriving back in the U.S.

The CDC notes that Americans traveling internationally should pay close attention to the COVID-19 situation at their international destination before traveling outside of the U.S. Also, while fully vaccinated people don’t need to get tested before leaving the U.S. (unless required by the destination), they will need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a flight back to the U.S. And, although fully vaccinated travelers don’t need to self-quarantine after arriving back in the U.S., the CDC recommends that they get tested for COVID-19 three to five days after returning from international travel.

The CDC still advises unvaccinated people to avoid unnecessary travel, and fully vaccinated individuals are advised to continue taking recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. (See “But now is not the time to relax COVID-19 safety precautions,” below.)

What else can fully vaccinated people feel safe doing?

The new travel guidelines follow recommendations released in early March, which loosened restrictions for certain gatherings for fully vaccinated people. If you’ve been fully vaccinated, the CDC says:

  • You can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart.

  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people of any age from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks or staying 6 feet apart, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms. (However, if you live in a group setting, like a detention facility or group home, and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.)

Have you been fully vaccinated?

People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine. If you don’t meet these requirements, you are not fully vaccinated. Keep taking all precautions until you are fully vaccinated.

But now is not the time to relax COVID-19 safety precautions

Although the vaccine is an important tool in ending the pandemic, other safety measures remain as important as ever.

The vaccine has been shown to protect against symptomatic COVID-19 and against severe COVID-19 disease, but it is not yet known whether someone who has been vaccinated can still acquire and spread COVID-19 to others.

So, even if you’ve been vaccinated — it’s still critical to wear a mask, practice physical distancing and observe other precautions until broad public immunity to COVID-19 infection is achieved.

Please remember to follow these safety measures, recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Three important ways to slow the spread
  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others and stop the spread of COVID-19.

  • Stay at least 6 feet (about two arm lengths) from others who don’t live with you.

  • Avoid crowds. The more people you are in contact with, the more likely you are to be exposed to COVID-19.

How to protect yourself when going out
If you are at risk of getting very sick
Most common symptoms to watch for
  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Loss of taste or smell

  • Sore throat

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea

Other symptoms are signs of serious illness. If someone has trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, or difficulty staying awake, get medical care immediately.

What to do if you're sick
  • Stay home except to get medical care.

  • Isolate yourself from other members of your family to prevent spread to them and the people they may have contact with, like grandparents.

  • Even if you don’t feel sick, you can spread COVID-19 to others.

  • Get care immediately if you are having emergency warning signs, like trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest.

How to get a test for current infection
  • You can visit your state or local health department’s website to look for the latest local information on testing.

  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested, call your health care provider first.

  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and choose to not get tested, it is important to stay home. Find out what to do if you are sick.

How to cope with stress
  • Care for yourself one small way each day.

  • Unwind by doing yoga, listening to music or gardening.

  • Find new ways to connect with family and friends, get support and share feelings.

  • Eat healthy foods and get enough rest.

  • Relax by reading, listening to music or starting a new hobby.

Now, more than ever, with hope on the horizon, it’s important to stay focused on safety. It will be many months before the community reaches a vaccination rate that will enable these measures to be relaxed.

So, please, do your part by continuing to protect yourself — and others.

BJC HealthCare is working hard to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to those who are eligible, according to federal and state guidelines. By getting vaccinated, you’re taking care of your health as well as your family, friends and community. We strongly encourage the vaccine for anybody who is eligible to receive it, and we recommend that you accept the first opportunity provided to receive a vaccine.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Things to Know about the COVID-19 Pandemic

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