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After more than a year of staying home and missing milestones because of the pandemic, it feels good to gather again with family and friends. As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, we can see the benefits – numbers of new cases and deaths are declining, and our communities are reopening. Delaware has joined the states lifting their COVID-19 states of emergency, many in place since March 2020.

Vaccination is a simple way to add protection – like using both the seat belts and airbags in your car. For COVID-19 vaccinations near you, visit vaccines.gov

We may be eager to return to our pre-pandemic lives, but the updated COVID-19 recommendations may seem confusing. Should we wear a mask? Do social distancing rules still apply? And how do we stay safe from the new variants?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued updated guidelines for people who have been fully vaccinated. (That’s about 59 percent of Americans ages 18 and older.)

Here are answers to questions about a COVID-safe summer.

Do I still need to wear a mask?

The good news is that if it’s been at least two weeks since your second injection of a two-dose vaccine or your only dose of a one-shot vaccine, you can resume many of the same activities you did before the pandemic.

That means you don’t have to wear a mask or physically distance yourself, except where required by federal, state or local regulations. Businesses including health care facilities also may have their own guidance for customers and employees.

If you are not fully vaccinated, or if you have a condition that may make you less likely to respond to the vaccine — or if you live with someone who has such a condition —you should continue to wear masks in public, even when not required. See the CDC’s Guide to Masks.

Because of the emergence of the delta variant and the fact that no vaccine provides 100% protection, many experts still advise wearing a mask when you are indoors and potentially close to others who may or may not be vaccinated, such as in stores.  It’s a simple way to add protection, kind of like using both the seat belts and the airbags in your car.

Should I still get vaccinated?

Yes, especially if you want to return to the activities you did before the pandemic. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and more than 334 million people in the U.S. have received them under the most intense safety monitoring in the nation’s history, according to the CDC.

Vaccines are helping to keep the virus from spreading in our community. However, we have seen dramatic increases in the spread of COVID-19 in areas with low vaccination rates.  While we haven’t seen this yet in Delaware, we all should continue to be vigilant and to recommend vaccination to every non-vaccinated person we know.

Everyone age 12 and older is eligible to get a free COVID-19 vaccination. You can find out more about how to get your shot by visiting vaccines.gov or checking this list of resources.

What about the delta variant?

Coronavirus variants, like the delta variant, will continue to circulate. The delta variant is particularly concerning because it spreads much more easily from person to person and may carry a higher risk of hospitalization, even among young, otherwise healthy people.

Evidence suggests the vaccines continue to provide protection from these variants, which is yet another reason to get vaccinated if you haven’t. People who have gotten only one dose of a two-dose vaccine still appear to be at risk, so make sure to get that second dose as soon as it is due.

If I’m vaccinated, can I travel within the U.S.?

Yes. Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required on planes, buses and trains, as well as in U.S. transportation hubs like airports and stations. You do not need to get tested before or after your domestic travel.

Can I travel internationally?

If you’re traveling internationally, pay close attention to what’s going on at your international destination before leaving the U.S. You do not need to get tested before leaving the U.S. unless your destination requires it. You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the U.S.  Testing is still recommended 3-5 days after you return home. 

When do I need to get tested for COVID-19?

If you have been fully vaccinated, you don’t need to be regularly tested or quarantined, even if you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, based on CDC guidance. If you do develop symptoms, it’s a good idea to get tested.

It’s important to know that newer variants of COVID-19, such as delta, seem to be less likely to cause loss of taste or smell and more likely to cause runny nose or congestion, sore throat, headache and fever. Also, many common winter cold viruses have started to circulate again, and testing will be the only way to determine if your symptoms are due to COVID-19.

ChristianaCare offers public testing on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., alternating between Newark and Wilmington campuses. You can find other testing locations at this community testing site.

Are there special guidelines if I have a condition or I’m taking medications that weaken the immune system?

Yes, you should talk to your health care provider about any precautions you may need. While vaccination may still protect you, it is not guaranteed, so you likely will still benefit from wearing masks and social distancing.

Enjoy your reunions and celebrations with loved ones in the coming weeks. For a shot of confidence during these events, be sure to get your vaccination.

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