The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is finalizing guidance aimed at clarifying what Americans who have received COVID-19 vaccines should and shouldn't do, according to two sources at the agency familiar with its drafting.
The upcoming guidance, first reported by Politico, is expected to include that fully vaccinated individuals should be able to gather in small groups with other people who have also been vaccinated. The CDC currently does not recommend in-person gatherings with the general public, saying "gathering virtually or with the people you live with is the safest choice."
Even for people who have been fully vaccinated, other mitigation measures will still be recommended, including wearing a mask in public and social distancing.
The sources wouldn't specify when exactly this guidance would be released but one said it would be released when it's finalized "later this week."
At the White House COVID-19 response briefing Monday, President Biden's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, previewed the guidance by saying that small gatherings among people who are "doubly vaccinated" are low risk -- "so low that you would not have to wear a mask, that you could have a good social gathering within the home."
Both Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines require two doses; Johnson & Johnson's will only require one shot. That vaccine received an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration over the weekend and doses are beginning to be administered this week.
The guidance comes as the nation is at a crossroads in its fight against the virus. In the last month, average daily cases nationwide have fallen more than 50%, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, but that progress has plateaued. In the last week, data from the CDC indicates average new cases have ticked up nearly 2%.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at Monday's briefing that she remained "deeply concerned about a potential shift in the trajectory of the pandemic." States around the country, including New York, Massachusetts and Arkansas, are loosening COVID-related restrictions on businesses, adding to fears that the U.S. could be letting its guard down too early. On Tuesday, Texas became the third state to rescind its statewide mask mandate in recent days, joining Montana and Iowa.
At the same time, the pace of vaccinations continues to increase, and with more Americans vaccinated, the need for new guidance on what this population can safely do has grown. But Walensky stressed that now is not the time to resume travel or disregard other safety measures.
"The goal in those first 100 days has always been to sort of make sure that we are in a place to be out of this pandemic," she said. "At 70,000 cases per day, we're not in that place right now."