New federal COVID-19 guidelines released on Monday say that it is okay now for fully vaccinated Americans to gather indoors with other vaccinated individuals without masks or social distancing.
With a small group of fully vaccinated Americans having grown since January, so have calls for new guidance for such people. Monday’s guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the first for fully vaccinated people.
“With more and more people vaccinated each day, we are starting to turn a corner,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky at a White House COVID-19 press briefing Monday morning, announcing the new guidance.
“The recommendations issued today are just a first step,” Walensky said. “Fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or physical distancing.”
However, the CDC director added, it’s important for vaccinated people to “please keep wearing a well-fitting mask” in most other settings.
Along with that, the CDC is continuing to recommend that fully vaccinated individuals keep avoiding large gatherings and practicing social distancing.
Furthermore, the CDC is saying that vaccinated individuals should get tested if they notice they have symptoms possibly related to COVID-19.
Officials say a person is deemed fully vaccinated two weeks after getting the second and final dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines and two weeks after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Around 9% of Americans, which is about 30 million people, have been fully vaccinated so far with a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by the federal government, according to the CDC.
Aside from it being deemed safe for fully vaccinated people to gather indoors with others who are vaccinated, the new guidelines said that such individuals can also visit “with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing” and refrain “from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic”.
On top of all that, the new guidance said that fully vaccinated grandparents can now visit their unvaccinated children and grandchildren, though with some caveats.
“Fully vaccinated grandparents can visit indoors with their unvaccinated healthy daughter and her healthy children without wearing masks or physical distancing, provided none of the unvaccinated family members are at risk of severe COVID-19,” the guidance said.
However, those kinds of no-mask interactions should only be limited to one unvaccinated household for safety reasons.
“Continuing the example from above, if fully vaccinated grandparents are visiting with their unvaccinated daughter and her children and the daughter’s unvaccinated neighbors also come over, the visit should then take place outdoors, wearing well-fitted masks, and maintaining physical distance (at least 6 feet),” the guidance added. “This is due to the risk the two unvaccinated households pose to one another.”
Although, Walensky said that the CDC has not updated its travel guidance yet.
“We would like to give the opportunity for vaccinated grandparents to visit their children and grandchildren who are healthy, and who are local, but our travel guidance currently has been unchanged,” the CDC director said Monday, emphasizing that “the travel corridor is a place where people are mixing a lot,” and that COVID-19 strains are circulating, both domestically and internationally.
“We’re hopeful that our next set of guidance will have more science around what vaccinated people can do, perhaps travel being among them,” Walensky also said.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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Elizabeth Warren Acknowledges Unintended Consequences of Obamacare
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a longtime supporter of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, is now acknowledging the unintended consequences of the healthcare legislation, particularly its impact on industry consolidation and rising healthcare prices.
Warren, who has been a vocal proponent of Obamacare, has recently had what the Wall Street Journal reported as an “epiphany” regarding the consequences of the healthcare law. In a letter addressed to the Health and Human Services Department inspector general, Warren, along with Senator Mike Braun of Indiana, expressed concerns about vertically-integrated healthcare companies potentially increasing prescription drug costs and evading federal regulations.
According to reports from Fox News, the bipartisan letter highlighted issues with the nation’s largest health insurers allegedly bypassing Obamacare’s medical loss ratio (MLR). According to Warren, these insurers, through vertical integration, have manipulated the system, leading to “sky-high prescription drug costs and excessive corporate profits.”
The senators detailed how conglomerates, like UnitedHealth Group, with ownership across various healthcare sectors, could inflate medical payments to pharmacies and, by realizing those payments on the pharmacy side, appear to comply with MLR requirements while retaining more profits.
Moreover, despite the Democrats’ argument that the MLR would benefit patients, it has incentivized insurers to merge with or acquire pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), retail and specialty pharmacies, and healthcare providers. This, in turn, has made healthcare spending less transparent, as insurers can allegedly shift profits to their affiliates by increasing reimbursements.
Warren, who has consistently voted against Obamacare repeal efforts, notably advocated for a “Medicare for All” proposal during her 2020 presidential campaign. Despite her prior support for the healthcare law, Warren’s recent concerns about its unintended consequences have raised questions about the long-term effects of Obamacare and its impact on the healthcare industry.
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