Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Slowly But Surely

We are making progress against the pandemic.

Federal health officials released guidance Monday that gives fully vaccinated Americans more freedom to socialize and engage in routine daily activities, providing a pandemic-weary nation a first glimpse of what a new normal may look like in the months ahead.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who are two weeks past their final shot may visit indoors with unvaccinated members of a single household at low risk of severe disease, without wearing masks or distancing. That would free many vaccinated grandparents who live near their unvaccinated children and grandchildren to visit them for the first time in a year. The guidelines continue to discourage visits involving long-distance travel, however.

The CDC also said fully vaccinated people can gather indoors with those who are also fully vaccinated. And they do not need to quarantine, or be tested after exposure to the coronavirus, as long as they have no symptoms, the agency said.

Peter Hotez, co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, applauded the advice but said it has taken too long for the CDC to tell an exhausted public when their masks can come off.

“The sooner we move to telling people if you’re fully vaccinated you don’t have to wear masks, that will be an incentive for people to get vaccinated,” Hotez said.

For those who have made it through the rocky vaccine rollout, the five pages of guidelines offer a road map of sorts to resuming aspects of daily life that have been on hold for more than a year. They come as states have begun reopening and as government and public health officials are racing to vaccinate people as fast as possible to outpace highly transmissible versions of the virus spreading in nearly every state.

After a slow start, the pace of inoculations is accelerating, with 60 million people in the United States having received one shot and more than 31 million people fully vaccinated as of Monday, or about 9 percent of the population, according to the CDC. On Saturday, 2.9 million doses were administered, a record, while about 2.2 million people on average are getting vaccinated daily. President Biden has vowed to have enough supply for every adult who wants a shot by late May, raising hopes of a return to normal life.

The country is “starting to turn a corner,” Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for the coronavirus response, said in a briefing Monday, with the guidance highlighting “what a world looks like where we move beyond covid-19.”

It doesn’t mean that we can all strip off our masks and cram into bars and gyms, but now my sister can visit my mom at her assisted living facility, and so can her granddaughter and grandson. Hopefully by June we will have returned to some level of normality.

But it might be a very good idea to continue to follow common-sense measures to avoid infection even after the emergency has passed. For those of us who have been fortunate to avoid being infected but followed the CDC guidelines all along, when was the last time you had a cold? I usually get at least one a year, but I’ve now gone about 14 months without one. Post hoc ergo propter hoc? Maybe, but when you get down to it, basic hygiene that you learned in kindergarten is one sure way to speed up the end of the plague.