An expert guide on what activities are safe for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, from hugging to indoor dining

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An expert guide on what activities are safe for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, from hugging to indoor dining
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  • Getting a COVID-19 vaccine doesn't mean you can throw away your mask.
  • If you're unvaccinated, don't go back to the office.
  • A lot of activities require a mask, and experts make sure your mask fits tightly.

Things might start to look normal sooner rather than later in the US.

The US has authorized three COVID-19 vaccines, large-scale production efforts are underway, and President Joe Biden has said that there will be enough doses for every adult in the US by the end of May.

While getting a COVID-19 vaccine is not a free pass to throw out your mask and go wild, it does give you some freedom to socialize, travel, and maybe even see a movie with a lower risk of getting sick.

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On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance for fully vaccinated people.

But given that the majority of the population hasn't gotten a jab, Insider spoke with experts about what activities are safe at this stage of the pandemic, whether you're vaccinated or not. For activities that require masks, they emphasized that mask fit is crucial for protection.

The experts' advice for vaccinated folks is aimed at those who are fully protected. Your immunity doesn't fully kick in until a couple weeks after the second shot (or the sole shot of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine), so if you're waiting for dose #2, it's best to stay cautious.

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Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Can I go to the hairdresser?

An expert guide on what activities are safe for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, from hugging to indoor dining
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If you're vaccinated: Yes.

Vaccinated people have a low risk of contracting COVID-19, and mitigation strategies at the hair salon add additional protection against infection.

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If you're not: Yes.

Vaccinated or not, hair salons require both the hairdresser and the person getting a haircut to wear masks. Most states also require salons to operate at a reduced capacity, limiting the risk of spread.

These rules have successfully prevented transmission via haircut. In June, two hairstylists cut 140 people's hair while symptomatic with COVID-19, and no one got infected, as everyone wore masks.

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Can I go to the dentist?

An expert guide on what activities are safe for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, from hugging to indoor dining
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If you're vaccinated: Yes.

Most dentists should be vaccinated by now since they qualify as healthcare workers. This probably means that they're unlikely to transmit the coronavirus, according to preliminary studies - and if you've been vaccinated, you're less likely to get sick anyway.

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If you're not: Yes.

Dentists normally treat every patient like they have an infectious disease, Kami Hoss, DDS, previously told Insider. They constantly wear gloves and masks, and some have implemented extra precautions since the start of the pandemic, so the risk of COVID-19 transmission is extremely low.

From May to September 2020, there was no evidence of COVID-19 transmission in dental offices.

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Delaying dental care may also lead to gum disease, which is linked to a higher risk of dementia, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

"People should not be foregoing dental care irrespective of their vaccination status," Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, told Insider.

Going to the gynecologist?

An expert guide on what activities are safe for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, from hugging to indoor dining
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If you're vaccinated: Yes.

If you're unvaccinated: Yes, but wait if you can.

Alex Huffman, an aerosol expert at the University of Denver, said if you're vaccinated, feel free to schedule a gynecologist appointment. If you're unvaccinated, go if you need to, but delay an appointment if it can wait.

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Can I go to the gym?

An expert guide on what activities are safe for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, from hugging to indoor dining
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If you're vaccinated: Yes.

So long as a gym has infection mitigation strategies in place, the risk of getting COVID-19 if you're vaccinated is low.

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If you're not: Yes, but make sure to wear a mask and stay away from others.

People breathe heavily while exercising, which can make the gym a high-risk space for COVID-19 transmission. Make sure the gym enforces mask-wearing and social distancing to decrease that risk.

Ventilation is also important - gyms in New York are required to have a new air system that filters air contaminants.

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If you've recently had COVID-19, experts recommend avoiding intense exercise for a week after testing negative.

Can I go on a date?

An expert guide on what activities are safe for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, from hugging to indoor dining
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If you're vaccinated: Yes.

If both people on the date are vaccinated, there no risk of contracting COVID-19, according to Adalja. If only one person is vaccinated, the risk is still very low.

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If you're unvaccinated: Yes, but you might want to try a virtual meet-up first.

If you're tolerant of taking risks and are mindful to go on a date with someone who's been tested or doesn't have any COVID-19 symptoms, it is possible to date safely.

If you're uncomfortable going on a date in person, you can have a virtual first date over Zoom or Facetime. Couples well past the first date jitters can also plan a floor picnic or a board game tournament in lieu of a traditional date night.

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Can I go to the doctor?

An expert guide on what activities are safe for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, from hugging to indoor dining
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If you're vaccinated: Yes.

There's no reason to put off going to the doctor if you're vaccinated.

If you're unvaccinated: Yes.

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Even if you're unvaccinated, it's safe to go to the doctor. Your provider has likely been vaccinated themselves, and they know to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"There never should have been a time you weren't going to see your doctor," Adalja said. He added that not going to a primary care doctor led to disruptions in chronic care and missed diagnoses - something we'll be paying for for years.

Getting an operation?

An expert guide on what activities are safe for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, from hugging to indoor dining
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If you're vaccinated: Yes.

Vaccinated people should not worry about contracting the virus if they have an upcoming operation.

If you're unvaccinated: Yes.

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For unvaccinated people, an untreated condition that needs an operation runs a higher risk than getting COVID-19, given that hospitals have safety measures in place, according to Adalja.

Operations are even more important than going to a routine checkup. "The longer you put things off, the worse it could become," Adalja said.

Can I dine indoors?

An expert guide on what activities are safe for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, from hugging to indoor dining
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If you're vaccinated: Yes, if everybody in the group is vaccinated and there are very few people in the restaurant.

If you're unvaccinated: No.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease expert, said unvaccinated people shouldn't dine indoors yet.

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There's evidence that airborne particles can float more than six feet in an indoor, poorly-ventilated room, according to the World Health Organization.

Huffman said with the more transmissible variants in circulation, indoor dining is "the single riskiest activity for our public health."

Compared to essential activities like visiting a doctor or dentist, eating in a restaurant can wait until the pandemic has subsided. If you're really missing the restaurant experience, outdoor dining can be a safer alternative.

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Can I travel by plane, train, or car?

An expert guide on what activities are safe for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, from hugging to indoor dining
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If you're vaccinated: Yes.

If you're unvaccinated: Yes, but that doesn't mean you should.

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Adalja said the mode of transportation isn't as important as your activities once you arrive at the destination. Avoid crowds and make sure you're following common-sense measures, like wearing a mask and social distancing in public places.

Just because it's safe to travel doesn't mean you should book a trip. The pandemic isn't over yet, so save your non-essential vacation plans for later in 2021.

Give hugs?

An expert guide on what activities are safe for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, from hugging to indoor dining
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If you're vaccinated: Yes.

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If you're unvaccinated: Very quickly, and only wearing a mask.

The CDC's new guidance says vaccinated grandparents can safely hug their grandkids without masks.

Because hugging is usually a quick interaction, vaccinated people should not worry about getting or spreading COVID-19 that way, according to Adalja.

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If you're unvaccinated, but hugging is important to you, wear a mask and keep it brief. You could also try a DIY hug shield.

Take public transport?

An expert guide on what activities are safe for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, from hugging to indoor dining
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If you're vaccinated: Yes, but wear a mask.

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If you're unvaccinated: No.

Huffman said vaccinated people can take public transportation if they wear masks, which is important for the safety of fellow commuters.

If you're unvaccinated, try to avoid public transit if you can, as community spread isn't low in most places.

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Go back to the office?

An expert guide on what activities are safe for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, from hugging to indoor dining
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If you're vaccinated: Yes, but make sure to wear a mask

If you're unvaccinated: No.

Huffman said if you're unvaccinated, delay going back to the office. However, if working from home isn't an option, he said to "make sure that whoever's in charge of the office is taking ventilation, distancing, and filtration seriously."

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Going back to the office is a bad idea if for offices that don't have windows you can open.

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