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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday issued new guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated, outlining what they can do safely and providing a small window into what life in the U.S. may look like in the months ahead. Dr. Richard Besser, CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the former acting CDC head, joins John Yang to discuss what the recommendations mean.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control released new guidelines today outlining what fully vaccinated people can do safely.
The recommendations provide a small window into what life in the U.S. may look like in the months ahead.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that fully vaccinated people may gather indoors without masks with each other or with those at low risk, such as children; 31 million people, or about 9 percent of the population, have now been fully vaccinated so far.
The news comes as pandemic deaths in the U.S. passed 525,000.
John Yang has the details.
Judy, the CDC says people who are fully vaccinated should continue to follow certain precautions, like wearing a mask and distancing when visiting with an unvaccinated person who's at high risk for severe infection, wearing a mask and distancing in public, and continuing to avoid long-distance traveled.
Now, these new guidelines are couched in caveats. And officials say they could change as new data becomes available.
Dr. Richard Besser is a former acting head of the CDC. He's now CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is a "NewsHour" funder.
Dr. Besser, thanks for being with us.
A lot of people want to know what this means. As more and more people get the vaccine, they want to know what these new guidelines mean.
A not-so-random example, my sister's first grandchild was born in October. She and her husband are both fully vaccinated. Her son and daughter-in-law are teachers. They have gotten their first shot. They will soon be fully vaccinated.
When they're fully vaccinated, will my sister be able to see her first grandson in other than a computer screen?
Dr. Richard Besser:
What I'm reading in these guidelines is the start of a path to normalcy.
And while they're small steps, I hope it encourages more people to get vaccinated. So, individuals who are fully vaccinated can meet indoors with other people who are fully vaccinated, or they can be indoors with one family who's not been vaccinated, as long as that family doesn't have anyone who is at high risk of having severe disease.
That's a step towards normalcy. That's a step towards people coming together. And it gives me a lot of hope.
Step toward normalcy, but still precautions the CDC wants people to follow.
Ninety percent of Americans are still not fully vaccinated. Is there a target percentage of the population you would like to see fully vaccinated before more restrictions can be taken off?
I think it's about more than the percentage of people who are vaccinated. Some of it will come down to a better understanding of what happens as these variants spread around the country, these strains that have been identified in Brazil and South Africa and the U.K. and places in this country.
There's a question that's outstanding in terms of how much protection, what level of protection you will get from these vaccines. I expect that, as more science comes in on that, that CDC will start to broaden the lifting of restrictions.
I'm hoping that they will come forward soon with new guidance around travel. And I expect that that will occur as more and more people get vaccinated.
What do we know about whether people who have been vaccinated can still spread the virus, can give the virus to somebody else?
We're starting to see evidence that the chances of that happening are going down. Not all the science in, but the data that I have seen give me encouragement that, like with so many other vaccines, if a person is fully vaccinated, they will not be spreading the infection to other people.
I don't know that you can say that about some of these variants. And that may be what's holding the CDC back from giving recommendations about going out to restaurants or other places, where you may be able to come in contact with people who may be at higher risk.
Are you concerned about the number of people who are skeptical about getting the vaccine? We have seen polls talking about how this has become in some ways politicized, that Republicans seem to be more skeptical of getting the vaccine than others. Does that concern you?
Yes, I mean, there are a couple things about vaccine distribution that concerns me.
One is that we're not doing a good enough job at getting vaccines to groups that are at the highest risk. Black, Latino populations in particular have very low vaccination rates compared to white populations. When you look at maps of cities that show what neighborhoods have been hit the hardest, those tend to be the areas that are having the lowest vaccination rates.
And to increase those rates, you need to ensure that people are hearing from voices there that they trust. That goes as well for the point you're making about the big split by political affiliation in terms of vaccine hesitancy and desire to get vaccinated.
We need Republican leaders to stand up and encourage those who follow them to get vaccinated. We know that former President Trump got vaccinated in January. And there are a lot of people who look to him for advice on vaccination. His voice would be very valuable in terms of getting people who support him to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated.
Dr. Richard Besser of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, thank you very much.
Thank you, John.
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