New CDC guidelines for vaccinated people excite parents, concern health director

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its first set of guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated.

In some cases, it means they can take off their mask around others.

Perhaps the biggest change is that grandparents or great-grandparents with the vaccine can get together with their grandkids without a mask under some limited circumstances.

Bobby Powers was out with his daughters at a park Monday afternoon. It’s been a long year away from big family gatherings they enjoy.

“Zoom calls are definitely getting old at this point and not a really great way to connect with these folks,” he said.

The biggest no-no has been meeting up with Gigima, his daughter’s great-grandmother who is 83 and high-risk. But, she got the vaccine more than a month ago and now new guidelines from the CDC mean it’s possible to get together with her.

“They’re really excited to get to see her again,” Powers said.

While that’s very exciting to Powers and others, the guidelines are also a bit worrisome for health officials, including Betsy Swearingen, the director of the Johnson County Health Department.

The CDC recommends people who are fully-vaccinated, which means two weeks past their last shot, can get together indoors without masks or social distancing with other people who are either fully-vaccinated or unvaccinated but from a single household and low-risk for severe symptoms.

Fully-vaccinated people also don’t have to quarantine from a known exposure to COVID-19 as long as they remain asymptomatic.

“I think it means we’re moving forward in our fight against COVID,” Swearingen of the health department said. “Maybe there’s truly an end in sight.”

But, she also worries the new guidelines could also confuse some people. For example, even fully-vaccinated people should still wear a mask and remain socially distant in public.

“I’m not so sure about just a disregard for masks as a whole. They seem to be working, I think,” Swearingen said. “At this point until we get a little better information, I still recommend the wearing of masks.”

Her department continues to get plenty of pushback from people so she also worries these guidelines could give too much room for interpretation. For some, it’s even a chance to find a loophole. “I just feel like it could be used to take advantage of not wanting to wear one and not wanting to protect the health of our community,” she said.

But on the playground as the sun sets, the end of the pandemic seems a little nearer Brandon Anthony and other parents who have been on their guard for a year.

“I feel like it’s a step closer to getting things back to normal,” Anthony said.

“We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s exciting,” Powers added.

The CDC is still working to determine how long vaccine protection lasts as well as the vaccine’s effect for emerging strains of the virus. But, health officials said, under these limited circumstances, the benefits of reducing isolation outweigh the risk of fully vaccinated people getting sick or passing the disease to others.