Lots of new ads showing sloppy kisses. Air traffic is picking up speed again. And the upcoming vaccination may seem like a ticket to normalcy for 20-year-olds in the US, many of whom are desperate to get back to their social lives in 2019. Tight parties. Strobe-lit dance floors. The ability to text a friend spontaneously: Would you like a drink?
Younger adults have played a disproportionate role in spreading the coronavirus. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that from June to August 2020, Covid infections increased among 20 to 29 year olds, accounting for more than 20 percent of all cases in the country. Shortly thereafter, data showed that these cases then led to an increase in infections in middle-aged and elderly people, possibly contributing to a national increase in cases.
Because older adults were prioritized for vaccination and around two-thirds of those over 65 years of age received at least one dose, their risk of getting seriously ill after catching the virus from an infected young person has decreased significantly.
But that doesn't mean it's completely safe to celebrate like 2019.
How you calculate your risk of transmitting the virus to more vulnerable people depends on your individual circumstances: whether you live with parents or someone aged 20, whether people in your social circle are at risk of serious consequences of Covid. "There is no such thing as a simple red or green light," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University.
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about what younger, low-risk adults in general can do when fully vaccinated.
Can we just go back to normal?
A return to a kind of normalcy is coming, experts stressed, but there are still many unknowns about how the next few months will develop. While rising vaccination rates and falling cases are encouraging, Dr. Schaffner, there are three situations that could hinder or negate this progress: when people refuse vaccination, when community transmission rates remain high, and when virus variants make vaccines less effective.
"If older and younger adults got vaccines and the variants weren't too varied, we could have a lot of pool parties," he said. "Bars could open."
"The return to normal life should be slow, one step at a time," said Tara Kirk Sell, a senior associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security who deals with large-scale health events. She recommended that people pick a riskier activity they longed for during the pandemic – see friends, go out to eat – and do so to celebrate their vaccination. "Then it should be a gradual step forward rather than this huge explosion of" I am free! "", She said.
But a lot of it depends on how much virus is circulating in your community.
"Once you find a combination of barely any community cases and a high percentage of people vaccinated, everything changes," said Dr. Paul E. Sax, an infectious disease specialist at Brigham and Women & # 39; s Hospital in Boston. "We're really looking forward to that. Then you say," Sure, I'll take the chance to go to a restaurant. My chance of going to a restaurant and getting sick from Covid is no higher than the risk of catching a common cold. "People should be happy to take that risk."
"People need to watch the Covid landscape as much as they do the weather," said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at the University of California at San Francisco. He recommended that people monitor vaccination rates in their community and the cases per 100,000. Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University, recommended the Covid ActNow website to check the case numbers per county. The New York Times also tracks risk by county.
If your area has fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 cases, it is safer to go to a party or hang out with a larger group of all the vaccinated people in the house. A far less secure scenario would be attending the types of spring break-related parties that are getting attention in Florida. 22 cases per 100,000 have been reported over the past seven days and are believed to have high levels of B.1.1.7, the more contagious and potentially deadly variant of the virus first identified in the UK.
Can we make out with strangers?
Experts interviewed for this piece said kissing and other intimate contact with someone you didn't know after vaccination is likely safe as long as you can confirm they are vaccinated, too.
Even without that confirmation, making out with a stranger is probably less risky than going to a crowded setting like a club or party, said Dr. David Rubin, Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "It is one of those events that is best left to the individual to make that choice and not to judge it," he said.
"If you are in a controlled environment and are only with that person and you want the chance to make out with that person and you think that person is at no risk of getting bad covid – from the CDC guide, you you can go on and do whatever you want with that person, ”said Dr. Chin-Hong.
If you've been vaccinated but can't confirm the vaccination or medical status of the person you want to kiss, then most young people will be fine, he said.
"The name of the game here is control," he said. "The more noses and mouths that come together, the riskier the transmission."
There is also the obvious logistical dilemma: casually and quickly checking that someone is fully vaccinated and low-risk can be difficult. A dating app, Coffee Meets Bagel, recently added an option to allow vaccination status to be included in dating profiles, although no verification is required.
Can we gather in groups?
The C.D.C. Recommendations were published earlier this month that it is safe for vaccinated adults to gather in small groups without masks or social distancing. A C.D.C. The spokeswoman said in an email that these guidelines apply to everyone living in the United States and that there are no additional considerations for younger adults.
In practical terms, this means that it is okay for a group of around five to ten vaccinated friends to hang out without taking precautions. But the larger the congregation, the more likely someone in the group will not be vaccinated. While all three vaccines appear to be effective in preventing serious illnesses caused by the virus, we don't yet know if they will stop people from passing the virus on to others.
What about indoor bars?
Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health, predicted that most bars across the country will be open this summer. He also predicted that they will be a major source of virus spreading to unvaccinated people, although it should be largely safe for those who received the vaccine.
"The bottom line is, if you want to go to a bar, you want to go to a club – you can and you will be pretty sure," said Dr. Yeah, as soon as you got vaccinated. However, other experts warned that there are still too many unknowns – about variants, about whether you can still transmit the virus after vaccination – to encourage people to flock to indoor bars again.
Outdoor bars can be safer depending on the facility and especially if there is little community coverage. Stick to a small group of friends, not a large crowd.
What about outdoor concerts?
Experts agreed that outdoor concerts could be safe, especially with attendees wearing masks and keeping their distance. Outdoor activities can support much larger groups of vaccinated people, said Dr. Sax.
"People wondered why there weren't any more cases after the protests this summer," he said. "Well, it's because they took place outdoors. That goes for outdoor concerts too – I would be very surprised if there were larger spreader events that were linked to an outdoor concert."
Do young people need to be vaccinated?
Experts raised concerns about vaccine reluctance among young people. In January, the U.S. Census Bureau released poll data showing that Americans under the age of 44 were the least likely to be vaccinated.
"We sold the vaccine to the elderly to protect them from hospitalization and death," said Dr. del Rio. “Most young people get a mild illness when they become infected. We need to be able to communicate very clearly that there is benefit in getting the vaccine for young people, not just saying, "You are not going to die."
"The faster we vaccinate people, the more likely we are to lead a more normal life," he said.