What you should know before planning a gathering

After getting the COVID-19 vaccine, there are still safety guidelines to consider

By Food52

Published April 9, 2021 7:30AM (EDT)

 (Rocky Luten / Food52)
(Rocky Luten / Food52)

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to emphasize the importance of the preventative measures we've all been taking for the past year against COVID-19. You know them well: Wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, stay at least 6 feet away from those outside your household, and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.

Every day, more Americans receive their first or second vaccine. According to the Associated Press, President Biden has announced that all American adults will be eligible to receive their first vaccine by April 19, nearly two weeks ahead of his original deadline of May 1. The U.S. is currently on schedule to reach 200 million vaccines by April 30 — Biden's hundredth day in office.

While that's good news overall, it doesn't address the questions of whether and how vaccinated adults can socialize with one another. According to the CDC, if you're fully vaccinated, meaning you received a one-dose vaccine or your second shot at least two weeks ago, you "may be able to start doing some things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic."

Vaccinated individuals are protected from severe illness and death related to COVID-19, and can now resume the following activities if they choose:

Gathering indoors

Being indoors together without wearing masks is now considered safe. You can socialize, eat, drink, and yes, even hug mask-free indoors with members of one other household at a time, provided nobody in question is at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The maximum number of people allowed differs from state to state (you can see a full list here), but the CDC continues to recommend against "medium to large-sized gatherings," particularly in situations where social distancing is not possible.

Fully disinfecting indoor surfaces is also no longer necessary, with soap and water being a sufficient alternative. Updated information indicates the risk of contracting COVID-19 from a contaminated surface (also known as "fomite transmission) is "generally less than 1 in 10,000." Airborne respiratory droplets continue to pose the most serious risk of transmission.

Those exposed to someone who tested positive in the past 14 days do not need to be tested or refrain from socializing. This excludes individuals who work in a group home setting or live with someone at high risk for severe illness.

It's still strongly recommended that fully vaccinated individuals continue to practice preventative measures in public, including wearing a mask, washing hands, social distancing, and avoiding being in enclosed spaces with others.

What we don't know

While these guidelines are informed by data sets from around the country, gray areas remain when it comes to social gatherings with other vaccinated people.

It's not yet known, for instance, how effective the current available vaccines are against identified COVID-19 variants of concern (like the U.K., Brazilian, and South African strains). We also don't know how long vaccines provide protection, as we head into the spring and summer holidays when people tend to gather. We'll update this section regularly as more information becomes available.

What about travel?

"With millions of Americans getting vaccinated every day, it is important to update the public on the latest science about what fully vaccinated people can do safely, now including guidance on safe travel," says CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. Fully vaccinated people have been cleared for travel within the U.S. at low risk, and can forgo testing and quarantine at their destination as well as on their return home. Wearing masks, social distancing, and frequent washing of hands are all still important practices to protect others.

It's recommended that non-vaccinated or those who have received one dose of a two-dose vaccine continue to delay their travel plans indefinitely. Those who haven't finished their course of vaccination and must travel by bus, train, or air should take steps to protect others, such as getting tested, participating in state-run contact tracing programs, maintaining six feet of space between themselves and anyone they're not traveling with, and quarantining for a week at each destination (10 days if forgoing testing).

Travelers who aren't fully vaccinated are also urged to consider the behavior of those they'll encounter at their destination. According to the CDC, ". . . singing, shouting, not maintaining physical distancing, and not wearing masks consistently and correctly," can all increase the risk of infection.

Make a plan in case someone in your traveling party becomes infected, including assessing the capacity of hospitals at your destination. Bear in mind that vaccination is just one step (though a highly effective one) toward reducing the spread of disease and keeping your friends, family, and neighbors safe and healthy.

So you want to plan a gathering. Here's what the CDC says

Even if you are vaccinated, before planning a gathering, there are other factors to consider, from where your prospective gathering will take place, to whether others at the gathering are vaccinated. We spoke with Jasmine Reed, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Affairs Specialist, for recommendations for those who are as of yet unvaccinated, partially vaccinated from a two-dose vaccine, or fully vaccinated. Note: This conversation includes links to guidelines as of April 6, 2021, and are likely subject to change.

Food52: What are your thoughts on indoor versus outdoor gatherings from a COVID-19-safety perspective for those who are not yet vaccinated?

Jasmine Reed: The CDC would recommend that unvaccinated persons consider outdoor gatherings instead of indoor gatherings. See this link for current guidance.

Say you're considering having a gathering at a private residence with 10 people or fewer, from more than one household (number based on current New York State recommendations). In your opinion, what are the risks for unvaccinated people who gather—indoors and outdoors—with those who are not in their household?

To decrease the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19, even with a gathering of 10 people or fewer, the CDC recommends that unvaccinated people avoid gathering with people who do not live in the same household, especially in indoor settings.

For this type of gathering, what are the risks if everyone in the group is taking a two-dose vaccine, and are half-vaccinated?

People are considered fully vaccinated:

1) Two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or

2) Two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine.

Regardless of the size of the gathering, for anyone who is undergoing the two-dose vaccination process and is half-vaccinated, the risk is still the same as a person who is as yet unvaccinated. They should continue to follow the CDC guidelines for unvaccinated people based on the definitions above. See this link.

For this type of gathering, what are the risks if one person in the group is unvaccinated, but everyone else is fully vaccinated?

The individual circumstances will dictate the level of risk. Physical distancing and wearing a mask should be practices that need to be observed by everyone during the gathering. See this link.

Do your opinions of the risks differ when considering those who have gotten a single-dose vaccine?

No, the single-dose vaccine provides similar coverage as the two-dose vaccine. See this link.

What are the risks of a comparably sized gathering among as yet unvaccinated kids and teens?

The same risks apply for unvaccinated kids and teens as for adults who have not been fully vaccinated. See this link for current guidance.

5 picnic-approved recipes

According to the CDC, you're "less likely to be exposed to COVID-19 when you attend outdoor [versus indoor] activities." And now that the weather is getting warmer and sunnier and prettier by the day, why not turn that lunch with loved ones into a picnic at the park? Here are some recipes that are ready to travel.

1. Gena Hamshaw's Vegan Deli Bowls with Smashed Chickpea Salad

The smashed chickpea salad—with tahini, capers, scallions, celery, and pickles — is the star here. Team up with whatever fresh vegetables are around and some soft bread, and you're set.

2. Japanese 7-Eleven Egg Salad Sandwich

Blitzing boiled eggs and Kewpie mayo in a food processor gives this standout egg salad — inspired by the sandwiches at 7-Elevens in Japan — a "cloudy, fluffy texture," according to recipe developer Nikkitha Bakshani.

3. Herby Pasta Salad with Tempeh Bacon and Roasted Vegetables

After you make this highly packable pasta salad from cookbook author Jerrelle Guy, you'll want to put savory, smoky tempeh bacon on everything. And hey, why not?

4. Easy Vegetable Nori Wraps

You could assemble these nori wraps in advance, then dive right in when you get to the park. Or pack each filling in its own container, then assemble in the sunshine as an outdoorsy activity. Either way, don't forget your favorite dressing for dunking.

5. Roasted Eggplant Rolls

Lobster, eggplant, what's the difference? Inspired by summery lobster rolls, this Big Little Recipe just happens to be vegetarian (and very good with a cold beer).

By Food52


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