What can you do when you're vaccinated? The latest CDC COVID-19 guidelines

Being without a mask is safe again for most vaccinated folks.

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If you've been fully vaccinated, you can safely resume most pre-pandemic activities.

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Going to the movies, eating out at restaurants and gathering indoors with friends and family sans mask is becoming reality again as more people receive coronavirus vaccinations. And if you received your full vaccine already, you can take one step toward making those dreams a reality by following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for navigating social situations as a vaccinated person.

People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely forgo the mask indoors and outdoors, no matter the occasion, according to a May 13 announcement by the CDC. The agency now recommends fully vaccinated people resume their pre-COVID activities, while still adhering to local and state mask and distancing regulations. If you are fully vaccinated but have a health condition or take medication that weakens your immune system, however, you should still take precautions and talk to your doctor before you go mask-less.

You're considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The CDC says that based on early data the vaccines may help keep people from spreading the virus. They also reduce the risk of serious illness if you contract it, but being vaccinated is not a guarantee that you won't get the virus or get sick from it.

What you can do if you're vaccinated

As of mid-May, you can pretty much do everything you did prepandemic, as long as you continue to follow local mask mandates and physical distancing regulations put in place by businesses, work places, public transportation and federal agencies. In other words, a store may require you to a wear a mask, but being in public isn't risky behavior if you're fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

You can also now safely visit unvaccinated people so long as no one in that household is at an increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Those at an increased risk include people who have underlying health issues and the elderly. 

Fully vaccinated people who are exposed to someone with the virus don't need to quarantine or get a test if they're asymptomatic. However, if they develop symptoms of COVID-19, they should still do both.

Remember that the various coronavirus vaccines don't make you invincible to the virus. It's still possible to be infected after getting the vaccine, get reinfected even if you've had the virus or contract a variant of the virus. The vaccines are thought to protect against the variants, but they aren't a guarantee. "Early data show the vaccines may work against some variants but could be less effective against others," the CDC says. 

What you still can't do if you've been vaccinated

Don't toss your face masks just yet. Even if you've received the vaccine, you still need to wear a mask and maintain social distancing while on an airplane, on the bus or at a restaurant or store that enforces COVID-19 regulations. The newest guidelines for the fully vaccinated also don't apply in health care settings, or to those living and working in populated settings such as prisons or homeless shelters. 

Can I travel if I am vaccinated?


Traveling internationally should still wait, even if you're vaccinated.

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Travel is still considered a high-risk activity, especially for those who have not been vaccinated. However, if you are fully vaccinated, the CDC says that you can travel within the US without needing a negative COVID test before you head out on your trip. Fully vaccinated individuals also do not need to quarantine after returning home, unless you develop symptoms of COVID-19.

International travel is less straightforward -- you'll need to check with the country you want to visit to understand if it's letting foreigners into the country and what kinds of requirements it has for testing and quarantining. For example, as of April 16, Japan is not allowing foreign travelers from the US (and most other areas) into the country, but you can travel from the US to Iceland, as long as you have a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination. 

You are still required to test negative before boarding an international flight into the US, and you should test 3 to 5 days after returning to the country, the CDC says.

Can I go to restaurants and bars?

Eating at a restaurant is safe if you're fully vaccinated, according to the CDC's "Choosing Safer Activities" list. However, given the poorly-ventilated nature of most restaurants and clubs, it's totally up to you to decide whether or not to dine out. 

As with all of the loosened restrictions for fully-vaccinated folks, those particularly at-risk because of a health condition, or those who are taking medication that weakens their immune systems, should consult their doctor for a risk-benefit profile.

Can I go to weddings, concerts, funerals or other gatherings?

Restrictions on certain types of events and gatherings vary from state to state and county to county, but if you're fully vaccinated, large events like these are now considered safe. 

As with all activities, it's up to you to decide what's safe for you and your family. Although the risk of getting COVID-19 while fully vaccinated is "extremely low" both indoors and outdoors, Dr. Anthony Fauci said at a May 13 press briefing, "People have to make their own personal choice." 

What to do if you aren't fully vaccinated

Until you receive both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you should continue to wear a mask around other people outside your household, practice social distancing and get tested and quarantine if you are exposed to someone who tests positive for the coronavirus. 

These are the same guidelines that have been in place for nearly a year now, but as more people get vaccinated, they will start to loosen.

Watch this: How do I get the COVID-19 vaccine? Your questions answered
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.