A baby step to normalcy
The United States inched toward post-Covid life today, as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued long-awaited guidance to Americans who have been fully vaccinated. Notably, the guidelines allow vaccinated people to engage in new activities, including gathering indoors in small groups without precautions.
Vaccinated people may also gather in a private residence with unvaccinated people from a single household, without masks or social distancing, as long as none of the unvaccinated people are at high risk for developing severe disease.
That would allow, for example, inoculated grandparents to visit unvaccinated children and grandchildren without masks or distancing. But the visit should include only one household, so if unvaccinated neighbors or friends drop by, everyone should move outside, wear masks and practice social distancing.
“We know that people want to get vaccinated so they can get back to doing the things they enjoy with the people they love,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the C.D.C. “There are some activities that fully vaccinated people can begin to resume now in the privacy of their own homes.”
The agency’s new guidance is not legally binding but is frequently mirrored by state public health officials.
The C.D.C. also said that inoculated people no longer needed to quarantine or get tested if they are exposed to the virus, as long as they don’t show symptoms.
In public, vaccinated people should still wear masks and physically distance, the agency said, as well as take other precautions such as avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, and frequently washing their hands. They should also avoid larger gatherings. Those rules remain in place because scientists still don’t know if or how often vaccinated people can transmit the virus to others — although a growing body of evidence suggests they are less likely to be vectors.
Alaska’s far-flung vaccine program
In 1925, dog sledders mushed through a blizzard to bring medicine to people suffering from a diphtheria outbreak in Nome, a city on the Alaskan coast.
In 2021, dog sleds are still part of public health. Alaskans have also boarded turboprop bush planes, boats and snowmobiles in a sprawling delivery effort to distribute vaccines to remote villages in the dead of winter. One team recently arrived in a village as the temperature hit negative 61 degrees Fahrenheit.
Many Alaska Natives — who have died from the virus at quadruple the rate of white residents — live in remote villages. For a while, that seemed like an advantage. But when the virus did arrive in those villages, residents had little access to care. In some communities, more than 60 percent of people contracted the coronavirus.
But despite all odds, Alaska has administered a second dose of a vaccine to 16 percent of residents — the highest percentage in the United States. In part, that’s thanks to a steady supply of vaccines made available. But it’s also a result of persistent organizing to make sure no doses go to waste. A network of tribal health aides provide frontline health care and critical testing, treatment and telemedicine links with faraway hospitals — an approach that is now being considered in the Lower 48.
Afghanistan has received nearly half a million vaccine doses via the global Covax initiative, with more to come.
New Zealand says it has bought enough doses of the Pfizer vaccine to inoculate its entire population of nearly five million.
Vietnam began its coronavirus immunization program. The nation has been unusually successful in containing the virus.
Palestinians who work in Israel and Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank have begun receiving vaccinations. Israel has outpaced the rest of the world in vaccinating its own citizens, but faced intense criticism for providing only token amounts of vaccine for Palestinians living under its control.
Unhoused people in Michigan are now eligible for vaccines.
What else we’re following
What you’re doing
Jeanne and I are 81. She lives in Cincinnati and I in Toronto, where a mutual friend introduced us at a birthday party in July, 2017. I fell in love immediately and she at a much more measured pace, but we’re now life partners, chatting daily and watching Netflix online, timed to the second each night. I saw her last on March 3, 2020, and now, with both of us vaccinated, we’re planning our reunion in early May.— Jim Hilborn, Toronto
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