IDAHO — Memorial Day typically marks the unofficial start to summer, but it's once again happening during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the CDC recently changing its guidelines for fully vaccinated people, there are still some safety measures you should keep in mind whether you're heading out of town or staying home during the holiday weekend.
"What we're looking for really with this upcoming Memorial Day, upcoming summer travel, you don't really know necessarily if someone's had the vaccine or not," says Dr. Martha Taylor, St. Luke's Urgent Care System Medical Director. "We are very excited that there is a great response, at least around this area, to people wanting the vaccine and having had the vaccine. That being said, there are still quite a few people who have elected not to or haven't been able to get the vaccine."
Travel restrictions are among the newly-loosened restrictions per the CDC's recent announcement. Still, face coverings are required in some instances like in healthcare facilities, crowded areas, and public transit.
"You may have heard the CDC has now loosened those restrictions saying you no longer need to necessarily wear a mask indoors if you have been vaccinated which is great news for a lot of people. You no longer need to quarantine after you've left the country or at all if you've left your state, if you've flown somewhere and come back home you don't need to quarantine. That being said, again, if you are indoors in a federally regulated area such as an airport or anywhere the owner of that company or business has requested a mask, then it is advisable you do so still," explains Dr. Taylor.
The revised CDC measures also apply many pre-pandemic activities that you can enjoy once again after you've received your vaccine.
"That's all fantastic news to hear from the CDC who's recognizing that once you are vaccinated, your risk of transmitting the disease, your risk of getting the disease is so dramatically lowered that you can now be free to go around, go to restaurants without a mask on," says Dr. Taylor.
If you're planning to hit the road or fly this Memorial Day weekend or at any point this summer, Dr. Taylor encourages everyone to do a little bit of research before leaving the house.
"Federal laws obviously trump any local restriction list or CDC recommendations. There are still COVID swabs required prior to entering the U.S. despite not being required to leave the U.S. There are still some restrictions while leaving the U.S. so you may require quarantining when going to another country. You may want to travel with those travel agencies."
For those hanging out at home, it's still important to take safety measures around friends and family.
"Take advantage of the weather. Try to do things outdoors. Try to do things in well-ventilated spaces. Do things in smaller groups," Dr. Taylor suggests. "Again, graduation is upon us, and of course, you want to see your friends and family and reunite with loved ones. If you're able to do it in a park or outside, that's obviously preferred over some smaller space."
Dr. Taylor says the best way to prepare for any summer gathering is to get your COVID vaccine so you can gather without masks, without social distancing, and without worry.
For more on COVID safety and to learn how to book your COVID vaccine, click here.