37 million people will travel on Memorial day 1:16
(CNN) – Now that the United States is about to celebrate Memorial Day weekend, also known as Memorial Day, and the beginning of the boreal summer, many people are planning to travel to places they have not been in a year, to see again. friends and go to baseball games, concerts, and more. With coronavirus infections declining across the country and more than 50% of adults fully vaccinated, is it safe to do most activities? Can we meet with our family and friends? What if we are vaccinated but some of our loved ones are not, and does it matter if they are adults or children? Are there situations where we still have to use the masks?
It depends, says Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst, emergency room physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She is also the author of the book “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health,” which will be out soon.
We are entering a phase of the pandemic in which there are many nuances and few clear answers. The only sure thing, Wen says, is that vaccination makes everyone safer and everything safer to do.
These are their tips.
CNN: Many families are eager to see each other again. Is it safe to meet at home if everyone is vaccinated?
Dr. Leana Wen: Yes. Vaccination is the single most important factor determining the activities that can be carried out. If one is fully vaccinated, and everyone else who wants to see is vaccinated too, they can certainly be seen in all settings, even indoors, without masks and with lots of hugs.
CNN: What if you are vaccinated, but some members of your family are not? Is it safe to see them?
Wen: Its not that easy. Vaccination protects you very well from contracting the coronavirus. The chance of you getting infected, even if someone you see has COVID-19, is very low. The exception is if you are severely immunosuppressed, for example if you have cancer and are on chemotherapy or if you are a transplant patient on immunosuppressive medication.
Suppose there is another house you plan to visit where there are unvaccinated people, for example young children who cannot yet be vaccinated. You can see them safely, even indoors without masks.
If several households meet with unvaccinated people, there is a risk that the unvaccinated will transmit the coronavirus among themselves. The risk to yourself is still very low, so some people in that situation may decide that it is okay to see the other people not vaccinated. Another option is to encourage these meetings to be held outdoors, and for the unvaccinated to wear masks if they have to be indoors with others.
CNN: What if the unvaccinated are adults who refuse to be vaccinated? Would you have dinner with them inside the house?
Wen: That depends on you and your tolerance for risk. Your risk of contracting the coronavirus from them is low, because you are vaccinated and well protected. That said, the risk is not zero, and especially if you are a parent of young children or live with someone who is severely immunosuppressed, you may want to reduce your risk of infecting them with Covid-19. The safest activity is still anything outdoors. If you decide to have a meal indoors and you want to be very careful, open all windows and doors, and try to stay away from people who are not vaccinated.
CNN: Would you let unvaccinated children or an immunocompromised person dine indoors with other unvaccinated people?
Wen: No I would not. I know this could lead to some family tensions, but you have to decide for yourself where you put the limit. Personally, I would not feel comfortable with my unvaccinated children eating indoors with other unvaccinated children or adults. And I would also not advise people who are severely immunosuppressed to do so. The weather is good in many parts of the country, and I would strongly advise those who are not vaccinated or have less immune protection to only meet outdoors.
CNN: Would you say the same of groups of people who rent a house together, if several people from different households are not vaccinated?
Wen: Yes. It is very difficult for people who stay together in the same house to avoid coming into close contact and thus infecting each other. If everyone is vaccinated except the people in a household, the risk is very low. But if there are several households with unvaccinated people, there is a risk that those unvaccinated will infect each other. To meet safely, the unvaccinated should ideally be quarantined for a week and then tested before the entire group is assembled.
CNN: What about the people who plan to travel? What precautions would you recommend?
Wen: Memorial Day trips typically involve many crowds of people coming from different parts of the country. There are still areas in the United States that are hotbeds, with the risk of new and more contagious variants. I advise that, if you are in closed public places with a lot of people gathered, they wear a mask even if they are vaccinated. Immunosuppressed or unvaccinated persons should use a double mask or an N95 or KN95 mask. This applies to airports, airplanes, train stations, rest stops and other crowded places.
Also, keep an eye on what you do once you reach your destination. Those who are not vaccinated should be especially cautious. My children are not vaccinated, for example, and I would not take them to closed restaurants where there are many people, very close together, without masks. If they have to come with me to the supermarket or other places with unvaccinated people and without a mask, I would make sure they had a mask. In those places, I would also wear a mask.
CNN: How about a block party or a neighborhood gathering?
Wen: This could be fun, and safe! I would feel very comfortable anywhere outdoors. I would be fine with my unvaccinated children going without masks to a block party, a picnic in our neighborhood park, or a gathering in the backyard or front yard.
CNN: Does that include the beach or the pool? What if there are a lot of people?
Wen: The coronavirus is not transmitted through water, and anywhere outdoors will be much safer than indoors. I would feel comfortable taking my children to the beach or an outdoor pool, even if it is crowded.
CNN: What about a birthday party or a wedding where there are some events that are going to be indoors, and I don’t know if the others are vaccinated?
Wen: This will depend on your comfort level. If you are fully vaccinated, the risk to you is going to be very low. You will be able to participate in these activities if you so decide. Some people will choose to participate only if everyone present is known to be vaccinated; if not, they would participate only in the outer parts of these activities. You should decide your comfort level and let the host know in advance.
CNN: What if I still want to wear a mask?
Wen: That is also completely your choice. The change in the mask use guide has been quite sudden. We have been living with masks for 15 months. Some people can’t wait to get rid of them, while others are still very comfortable wearing them, and rightly so, because a high-quality mask protects you, as a user, from contracting diseases.
There are settings where vaccinated people should continue to wear a mask. There are others in which you can safely do without the mask, but it is also totally reasonable to decide to use it.
CNN: There are some people who might be anxious about social interactions during the Memorial Day holiday. What is your advice to them?
Wen: Take things at your own pace. Don’t feel pressured to do something you are not ready for yet. Decide what your comfort level is. Maybe you feel comfortable seeing only those who are fully vaccinated, or only outdoors. Nothing happens. Start with a small meeting first. And enjoy. We are finally coming out of the pandemic, and I hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day, whatever activity you choose to do.