Safe activities to do if you’re fully immunized, says Dr Wen

There are a lot of people who are fully immunized and want to be responsible members of society. They wonder what they can and should continue to do? How about hanging out with friends, dining indoors and hitting the gym? Can vaccinated grandparents still be left with their unvaccinated grandchildren?

To help answer these questions, we spoke with CNN’s medical analyst, Dr. Leana Wen. Wen is an emergency 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 a new book, “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health”.

CNN: How should people think differently about risk given the rise in infections and new research?

Dr Leana Wen: When it comes to treatment where we’re at now, I think people should keep two things in mind. First, most areas of the United States have substantial or high transmission of Covid-19, as defined by the CDC. We have to think of the vaccine as a very good raincoat. If it is raining outside – if the infection level is not very high – the vaccines will protect very well. But if it is a constant thunderstorm, there is a greater chance of getting wet. A vaccinated person is at greater risk when they are surrounded by many people who could be infected with Covid-19, and this is what is happening in the United States right now.

Second, we are entering a phase of the pandemic where almost all activities will carry some level of risk. People need to decide for themselves how comfortable they are with their household medical condition and the value of the activity to them.

If everyone in your household is fully immunized and healthy, you may be ready to take more risks. You might conclude that even if a breakthrough infection did occur, it would likely be mild, and you agree to take this risk in order to continue your pre-pandemic activities. Someone else may decide that because they live at home with young, unvaccinated children or immunocompromised family members, they want to be more careful.

I think both options are equally reasonable. The vast majority of the spread of Covid-19 is by unvaccinated people. Vaccinated persons do not pose a threat to public health and they should be able to exercise their own judgment on activities which are sufficiently safe for them.

CNN: Let’s review the risk of specific activities. What is the risk of eating inside?

Magnifying glass: Eating indoors in a restaurant is certainly more risky than eating out. What this risk is depends on several factors. To begin with, what is the configuration of the space in the restaurant? A busy and poorly ventilated setting will present a higher risk than a place where you might stray from other diners.

And you, who are you dining with? If everyone in your group is known to be fully vaccinated and these are the only people who will be around you, it is a safer scenario than if members of your own group are not vaccinated. I would also look at the rate of transmission of the virus in your community. The lower the rate, the more potentially secure it is.

CNN: How about going to the gym?

Magnifying glass: Again, it depends on the circumstances. If you are using elliptical or weight machines and no one is near you, then this is pretty safe. If you attend outdoor gym classes, the risk is also low. But if you go to, say, a high-intensity exercise class where a lot of people are breathing heavily, next to each other, and you don’t know if they’re vaccinated, the risk is considerably higher.

CNN: Would you travel?

Magnifying glass: The risk of air travel is quite low and can be further reduced if you wear a high quality mask like an N95 or KN95. The biggest concern is what happens once you get to your destination, as I touched on in this CNN Q&A.
How are the CDC's new mask guidelines changing the way families stay safe from Covid-19?  An expert's point of view

CNN: What about a private gathering of friends where everyone gets vaccinated? Would it be acceptable to continue with dinners and other indoor meetings?

Magnifying glass: It will certainly be a much lower risk than if the same people were together, but they were not vaccinated. A CDC study this week found that those who are not vaccinated are five times more likely to contract Covid-19 than those who are vaccinated (and a 29 times higher chance of being hospitalized or dying from coronavirus).

Many vaccinated people would feel comfortable with the level of risk in this situation. Again, it’s not zero, but it’s pretty low. This is especially true if other people at the gathering have a similar level of risk tolerance to you and are not otherwise participating in high-risk activities – for example, if they always wear masks in indoor public spaces. and if they avoid the higher risks. exhibits such as crowded bars and restaurants.

CNN: Last fall and winter, people formed pandemic groups. Would you recommend doing it again?

Magnifying glass: For some people, yes, I would. There are a lot of people who really want to minimize the risk of getting a breakthrough infection. This includes people who have underlying health conditions, where a breakthrough infection that is mild to someone else could lead them to the hospital. Others may be fairly healthy themselves, but don’t want to be asymptomatic carriers who could pass Covid-19 to vulnerable family members. People in similar situations, who have a similar approach to being cautious in their lives, might decide to form a pandemic group with each other. They might decide to only socialize others in the same pod indoors.

My family did this with another family who have young, unvaccinated children. This makes it easier to babysit, carpool and play. I would also advise others to consider the level of caution of other households before deciding to meet indoors with them. When in doubt, only meet outside.

5 ways to get your kids to wear masks

CNN: Can vaccinated grandparents still reunite with their unvaccinated grandchildren?

Magnifying glass: Yes. I would advise grandparents who are concerned about passing Covid-19 to their unvaccinated grandchildren to choose to reduce their own risk within three to five days of seeing their grandchildren. They could refrain from meeting indoors with others during this time and, if they want to be safer, I suggest they get tested right before they see their grandchildren.

My advice is the same the other way around, for grandchildren, if the grandparents are particularly vulnerable. Grandchildren can always make sure to wear masks indoors around others within three to five days before reuniting, and then getting tested before reunion.

If all of this is too much, consider seeing yourself outdoors only. The exterior remains much safer than the interior. And, of course, if there are people 12 years and older who are not yet vaccinated, they should do so as soon as possible, to protect them and others around them.

Comments are closed.