Aspirus doctor on new CDC guidelines: ‘The light is clearly at the end of the tunnel’

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says we’re starting to turn a corner in...
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says we’re starting to turn a corner in the fight against COVID-19.(WSAW)
Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 6:56 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says we’re starting to turn a corner in the fight against COVID-19.

The agency’s new guidance issued hours ago says vaccinated people can safely gather indoors without a mask or social distancing once they’ve built immunity, which happens after about 2 weeks. They can also gather with people who are not high-risk for severe COVID-19.

Aspirus Riverview Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Voelker says this guidance means vaccinated grandparents can finally have peace of mind seeing their grandkids, since children are low risk for COVID-19, as long as they keep in mind any unvaccinated family and friends who could still get very sick with COVID.

“We have to be optimistic. The light is clearly at the end of the tunnel, and the tunnel is getting a lot shorter,” said Dr. Voelker.

Monday the CDC saying people vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely be inside with other maskless vaccinated people or low-risk family and friends from a single household.

“If you had your second [Moderna] or Pfizer shot more than 2 weeks ago, or if you get the Johnson & Johnson shot, which is a one-time vaccination shot, then you are safe to visit,” he said.

Those with the vaccine can still get a mild case and spread COVID-19, but Dr. Voelker says some evidence shows vaccinated people might not be asymptomatic spreaders.

“It makes it much, much less likely that you’re going to be transmitting the virus. It’s still possible, and that’s why we are still telling you not to visit grandma if she is not vaccinated, even if you are,” he said.

And that’s also why it’s important to still avoid gathering with vaccinated people without a mask if you’re high risk for a severe case of COVID-19. Being over 65 and having a chronic illness are factors that put people at a higher risk. So is obesity.

“Even if you are under 65, if you are obese, you really should not be around others, even if they are vaccinated, if you are not without social distancing and mask wearing,” Dr. Voelker said.

Marathon County and Clark County Health Departments say they’re waiting for the Wisconsin DHS to adopt the new guidance before it is applied locally.

“We will bring their recommendations into the local guidance, and then modify our materials for education and outreach to show that DHS recommended language,” explained John Ross, emergency management director for Clark County.

Though some expected a change, the CDC did not change guidance on traveling, still advising no nonessential travel and testing upon return. Dr. Voelker believes it’s because traveling could still be a high-risk activity without knowing who around you has received the vaccine.

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