Meeting indoors, without masks, in private homes. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19—meaning it has been 14 days since receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or 14 days since receiving the Johnson & Johnson injection—are able to socialize with other fully vaccinated people in a way that feels normal.
"Today we've begun to describe what a world looks like when we move beyond COVID-19," said Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor for COVID response, during today's White House briefing on the pandemic.
Mitigation steps should continue in public
Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, director of the CDC, introduced the first guidelines for socialization for vaccinated Americans. Aforementioned small groups of fully vaccinated people can now socialize freely in private, indoor spaces but must still wear a mask in public.
Fully vaccinated people may also socialize with unvaccinated people in homes, if the unvaccinated people and members of their household are at low risk for serious complications from COVID-19, which Walensky described as younger than age 65 with no underlying health conditions.
It's this scenario that gets vaccinated grandparents to see grandchildren, Walensky explained. Fully vaccinated people can also refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure to COVID-19, if they remain asymptomatic.
The guidelines are based on what is both known and unknown about the three approved COVID-19 vaccines: They offer recipients almost total protection against severe symptoms, hospitalization, and death. But it is still unknown if vaccinated people can contract the virus asymptomatically and spread it to others.
"Everyone—even those who are vaccinated—should continue with all mitigation strategies when in public settings. As the science evolves and more people get vaccinated, we will continue to provide more guidance to help fully vaccinated people safely resume more activities," Walensky said in a CDC media statement.
Record vaccination day
The guidelines come as the nation saw a record-breaking vaccination day on Saturday, with 2.9 million vaccines administered. The 7-day average for vaccine administration was 2.2 million Americans per day, Slavitt said, up from 900,000 per day when President Joe Biden took office in January.
According to the CDC, approximately 59 million people have had at least 1 dose of vaccine, and approximately 31 million are fully vaccinated, or about 10% of the eligible US population.
"I'm hopeful," Walensky said. "This is putting us on a strong path to eventually end the pandemic."
The average daily number of cases, however, remains stalled at a high number. Walensky said the US average over the past 7 days was 59,000 new cases, with average daily deaths hovering just under 2,000.
The country reported 40,340 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 669 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. In total, the United States has confirmed 29,030,476 COVID-19 cases and 525,541 deaths.
Merck announces promising therapy data
Over the weekend, drug maker Merck released results of a phase 2a trial for the investigational antiviral molnupiravir, which showed a quicker decrease in infectious virus among patients with early COVID-19. The drug was tested in more than 200 non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients within the first 7 days of symptom onset.
By day 5 of antiviral administration, there was a reduction in positive viral culture in subjects who received molnupiravir (all doses) compared to placebo of 0% (0 of 47) for molnupiravir and 24% (6/25) for placebo, the study showed.
"We are very pleased to share our initial Phase 2 infectivity data at this important conference, which remains at the forefront for critical clinical scientific information in infectious diseases," said Wendy Painter, MD, chief medical officer of Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, which developed the antiviral with Merck.
"At a time where there is unmet need for antiviral treatments against SARS-CoV-2, we are encouraged by these preliminary data."
Other US developments
- The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package heads back to the House this week after passing in the Senate over the weekend, Politico reports. The House will vote on the package on Tuesday. Included in the bill are funds for the reopening of schools and continued vaccination of Americans.
- The statewide COVID-19 vaccination website rolled out by California last week is riddled with snags, preventing many people from signing up for shots, according to Kaiser Health News.
- The CDC variant tracker shows 3,037 B117 cases in 49 states, 81 B1351 cases in 20 states, and 15 P1 cases in 9 states.