Following the continued rollout of the various COVID-19 vaccines across the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines for individuals who are fully vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its resulting illness, COVID-19. While the CDC’s latest guidelines provide much-awaited flexibilities, it continues to be important that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, exercises caution and care when resuming some more normal activities. Additionally, it also is important that fire chiefs understand that these guidelines from the CDC are interim in status and likely will be updated in the future.
While the CDC’s new guidelines do not provide any information specifically for fire and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, the guidelines are relevant for IAFC members given the large numbers of fire and EMS personnel who have received their vaccinations. Some of the more exciting elements of the CDC’s guidelines for vaccinated individuals include:
- Small, indoor visits between vaccinated individuals without masking or distancing is likely a low-risk interaction.
- Indoor visits by a vaccinated individual to a single household of non-vaccinated individuals (who also have a low-risk for developing severe COVID-19 symptoms) is likely a low-risk interaction.
- Vaccinated individuals can refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure to COVID-19 (only if the vaccinated individual has no symptoms) – it is important to note that this is a guideline for the general public. All IAFC members should consult with their medical director and local health authorities when developing quarantine and testing plans for vaccinated fire and EMS personnel who experience a work-related COVID-19 exposure.
However, the CDC did note that it is important for all people, vaccinated or unvaccinated, to continue taking some precautions such as:
- Wearing a mask and physical distancing from others when in public.
- Wearing a mask and physically distancing when interacting with unvaccinated individuals with an increased risk for severe COVID-19 or living with someone with an increased risk for severe COVID-19.
- Wearing a mask and physically distancing when interacting with unvaccinated people from multiple households.
- Avoiding medium and large-sized in-person gatherings.
- Following all guidance issues by employers, the CDC, and other health authorities.
- Following all travel advisories issues by the CDC or other health authorities.
It is critically important to note that these guidelines from the CDC are meant to inform decision making in an individual’s personal life. These guidelines are not meant to replace guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (or the equivalent state labor agencies). Fire chiefs always should consult with their agency medical director and local/state health authorities when reviewing and updating operational plans or other work-related policies pertaining to COVID-19.
As more people become vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it will be increasingly important that everyone adheres to the CDC’s recommendations for safely re-opening of the nation. All IAFC members are encouraged to review the CDC’s full guidelines for vaccinated individuals. If needed, the CDC also has made available an abbreviated version of their guidelines and recommendations.
Evan Davis is strategic government relations manager for the IAFC