How to Hold the Line
If you are like most of us here in New England, you want to squeeze as much excitement and enjoyment out of our short summer as you can. You want beach days, pick-up games, museum trips, fun times at the splash pad, shopping trips, goal-smashing workouts, family gatherings, summer camps, and more. And you want to do all of those things without increasing your own or your family members’ risk of catching a debilitating case of COVID-19.
Many well-intentioned people are now resuming all of these activities without any COVID precautions at all. It is difficult to know whether continuing to follow precautions is reasonable or overly cautious, especially as others have clearly left them behind. Rather than give way to the tidal wave of peer pressure, I recommend knowing the guidance and standing your ground.
KNOW THE GUIDANCE
If you’re vaccinated and healthy, you are safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s expert guidance, there are no masks needed for those who are fully vaccinated, even if they are socializing indoors with people who are not. The vaccines are powerful. It is highly unlikely for a vaccinated person to get COVID-19 and almost impossible for them to pass COVID-19 to another vaccinated person.
If you are immune compromised, continue to be cautious. The CDC says, “People with immunocompromising conditions, including those taking immunosuppressive medications, should discuss the need for personal protective measures after vaccination with their healthcare provider.” Your provider may recommend continuing to follow prevention measures, including wearing a mask, staying 6 feet away from those outside your household, and avoiding both crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
Can a fully vaccinated person pass COVID-19 to an unvaccinated person or someone who is vaccinated but immunocompromised? This is a good question. Growing evidence suggests that vaccinated people are far less likely to have even asymptomatic infection and less likely to transmit COVID to others, especially if they received an mRNA vaccine, like Pfizer or Moderna. Scientists are working to confirm this information for those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. A fully vaccinated person who lives with unvaccinated or immunocompromised people may want to be a bit more cautious, including wearing a mask when indoors with people who are not vaccinated or who may not be vaccinated. Ask the immuno-compromised or unvaccinated person’s healthcare provider for more specific guidance.
Unvaccinated people, including everyone under 12, should continue to wear masks almost all the time. They can go safely unmasked during outdoor activities with members of their household and at small outdoor gatherings where everyone outside their household is vaccinated. Otherwise, they should mask up. That includes any situation, indoors or outside, where they cannot stay 6 feet away from unvaccinated people.
STAND YOUR GROUND
Without a doubt, this part is no fun. But standing your ground means being an obvious outlier. For some of us, it means making your unvaccinated kids mask, even while other kids are going unmasked; choosing locations where masks are required for all, like the Berkshire Scenic Railway or many of our local museums; or skipping situations that put you into contact with other families entirely.
Knowing the guidance is the first step in making good choices for yourself and those you love. The second step is having the confidence to stick to it, even when nobody else appears to be doing so.
Donna Barron, RN, is the infection preventionist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, VT.