The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines on Monday saying that people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can now meet each other indoors without social distancing or masks.
While the public health guidance carries no legal authority, it is the first major attempt by the US health authorities to spell out how life can begin to return to normal.
Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, said: “We believe these new recommendations are an important first step in our efforts to resuming everyday activities in our community.”
Until now, CDC guidance has not distinguished between those who have been vaccinated and those who have not, recommending against indoor socialising, travelling and large gatherings for everyone. The announcement on Monday marks a departure from that stance.
Under the new guidelines, those who have been fully vaccinated can visit the houses of other fully-vaccinated people, or houses where there is no one at high risk of the disease.
“If grandparents have been vaccinated, they can visit their daughter and her family, even if they have not been vaccinated — as long as the daughter and her family are not at risk for severe disease,” Walensky said.
She added that it would no longer be recommended that vaccinated people get tested and quarantine after coming into contact with someone who has the disease.
However, the organisation continues to advise against non-essential travel or medium- or large-sized gatherings for anyone, whether or not they have been vaccinated.
Andy Slavitt, a senior White House coronavirus adviser, said: “We’ve begun to describe what a world looks like where we move beyond Covid-19 . . . I think it’s important to note that, as more and more people get vaccinated, that list of activities will continue to grow.”
The US vaccinated a record 2.9m people on Saturday, Slavitt said, taking the total number of fully-vaccinated people to over 30m people, or 9 per cent of the population.
Some 60m people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. While the BioNTech/Pfizer or the Moderna vaccines require two jabs, regulators have also recently authorised the single-dose inoculation made by Johnson & Johnson.
According to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University, the number of cases and deaths continues to fall across the country, although Walensky warned there had been a “levelling off of the decline” in the last few days.
Some public health officials have also been alarmed by the rollback of restrictions in states such as Texas and Mississippi, which recently ended mask mandates and lifted business restrictions as cases have declined.
Over the past seven days there were an average of just under 60,000 new cases a day, according to the FT’s coronavirus tracker — close to the same level seen in October 2020.