New CDC guidance gives Georgians hope that end of COVID-19 is in sight

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance Monday for vaccinated people, as Georgia has administered 2.3 million shots.

The guidance says fully vaccinated people can meet with other vaccinated people indoors without masks or distancing.

That came as great news to Cliff Biggers, who has been vaccinated for nearly a month. He told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson that he’s looking forward to letting his guard down around family.

“As of February, the 10th, I am fully vaccinated,” Biggers said. “There are some family members that we’re hoping to see this week and this weekend. And it’ll be nice to do that, to be able to see them without that extra worry.”

Vaccinated people can now visit with unvaccinated people from a single household without masks or distancing too — if those people are not at risk for contracting a severe form of COVID-19, like grandkids.

They can also skip quarantine and testing if they’re exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 but isn’t showing symptoms.

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“It’s going to be a major improvement for those who’ve been fully vaccinated and hopefully in an encouragement for others to get vaccinated as well,” said Dr. Michael Eriksen, dean of the school of public health at Georgia State University.

He told Johnson that the new guidance reflects a growing amount of research on how well the vaccines are working.

“It does seem that increasingly, the vaccines have lower the viral load if you were infected, make it a much milder and less transmittable condition. So across the board, vaccines are I think surpassing expectations,” Eriksen said.

But the CDC still urges caution in public. It said vaccinated people should avoid travel as well as wearing masks and socially distancing when out and about or among people who are high- risk.

“It’s OK to be cautious. That’s what I believe,” said Vela McClam Mitchell-Thomas, who would love to hug her five grandchildren again.

But the more transmissible variants concern her as she waits for more people to get vaccinated.

“I hear the CDC, but I do think, you know, a couple more months of, of continuing the social distancing probably is not a bad idea,” Mitchell-Thomas said.

Millions of Georgians became eligible to get vaccinated starting Monday, including educators.

In Clayton County, the school district staff started getting their shots Monday.

“We’re preparing to inoculate between 100 and 150 a day,” said Dr. Morcease Beasley, Clayton County Public Schools superintendent.

Biggers still plans on being cautious. He told Johnson that he’s thinking about himself and others as he hopes for the pandemic to end.

“I still wear a mask, not just for me. But because people don’t know if I’ve been vaccinated. It’s the commonsense thing to do for other people,” Biggers said.

Some experts are calling for fewer restrictions in the new CDC guidelines regarding travel.

The CDC director said Monday that its next set of guidelines may include travel advice after they study how the vaccine protects people more closely.

Right now, she said she’s leery of telling people to travel because cases have surged when there have been more Americans traveling.