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After a long, hard year apart, is this holiday a chance to reconnect?

By Stacey Ballis
March 30, 2021
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It's been long, challenging time since you've celebrated a holiday with older family members—and now grandma and grandpa have gotten their COVID-19 vaccinations. (Hooray!) Is it safe to invite them over for Easter dinner?

If grandma has had her second vaccine, then probably—but it depends on who else is vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that people who are fully vaccinated can safely gather inside—yes, inside—without wearing masks. You're considered "fully vaccinated" two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or two weeks after the single dose Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine.

Grandparents on Easter
Credit: Getty / Nikola Ilic

What if not everyone in the household has been vaccinated yet?

There's a good chance that not everyone in your household is fully vaccinated. In that case, the CDC says that a fully vaccinated person can gather with low-risk unvaccinated people from one additional household. And you can leave the masks off.

Still, the reality will be more nuanced depending on your family, and epidemiologist Henry F. Raymond, DrPH, MPH, associate professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health in Piscataway, New Jersey urges taking more precautions. If you're mixing households where there are vaccinated and unvaccinated people, then the celebration shouldn't be like the pre-pandemic days. He urges wearing masks—unless you're eating—and maintaining social distance.

And yes, in a world with vaccinated and unvaccinated people, things get, well, complicated, Raymond says. We know that the vaccine prevents you from getting sick, but it's not yet clear if you can be vaccinated and still transmit the virus.

Meaning: There is still the possibility that vaccinated grandma can get your unvaccinated uncle, who has health issues, sick. Or, with a 94 and 95 percent effectiveness (for Moderna and Pfizer, respectively) there's still the small possibility that grandma could still get sick, and it's even more worrisome if she has underlying health conditions. When it comes to gatherings with higher risk people, everyone should consider masking up. It's all about looking at your particular family situation and making the safest choice, says Raymond.

The bottom line: We're not back to "normal."

Ultimately, there will be a time when enough people are vaccinated and you can throw holiday dinners like it's 2019. But that will take more time. "We have to get further along before we can start relaxing," Raymond says.