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Information for Vaccinated Pennsylvanians

Created February 11, 2021; updated May 5, 2021; updated May 25, 2021

Background

On May 13, 2021,  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) again updated its recommendations for fully vaccinated individuals (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html). This guidance applies to the general population, including businesses and schools in non-healthcare settings. For related information for healthcare settings, visit Updated Healthcare Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations in Response to COVID-19 Vaccination. Pennsylvanians that are fully vaccinated and cautiously returning to our new normal will find additional information in the section below.

Q. When is an individual considered fully vaccinated?
A. An individual is considered fully vaccinated when 2 or more weeks have passed after the receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose vaccine series, or 2 or more weeks have passed after receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine. In addition to vaccine licensed for use in the US by the FDA, CDC has indicated that guidance for fully vaccinated individuals also applies to those who received a COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use by the WHO.

Q. Do people have to be within 3 months of their last dose of vaccine to be excluded from the need to quarantine?
A. No, the CDC updated its guidance on March 8, 2021. Individuals who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine after an COVID-19 exposure regardless of the time since their last dose of vaccine. But, keep in mind that regardless of vaccination status, persons who exhibit new or unexplained symptoms consistent with COVID-19 still need to isolate and be evaluated for COVID-19.

Q. If an individual is fully vaccinated, do they need to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure?
A. In most circumstances, if the exposed individual has remained free from symptoms since the COVID-19 exposure, there is no need for a fully vaccinated individual to quarantine. Inpatients and residents in healthcare settings, regardless of vaccination status, should continue to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure.

Importantly, whether vaccinated or not, any person with new or unexplained symptoms of COVID-19 still needs to isolate and be evaluated for COVID-19.

Q. Do individuals who are fully vaccinated and visit Pennsylvania from another state, including Pennsylvanians returning to the commonwealth, still need to test negative or quarantine upon return to Pennsylvania?
A. No. As of March 1, 2021, the travel order requiring testing and quarantine is no longer in effect. Since travel can increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19, CDC recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated.

Q. If an individual is fully vaccinated, does PA DOH recommend individuals participate in surveillance testing?
A. Skilled nursing facilities licensed by the Department of Health must follow the guidance issued by CMS and CDC which provides guidance on surveillance testing in long-term care facilities. The guidance for other long-term care facilities licensed by the Department of Human Services is issued by that agency.

In other types of settings (e.g., workplaces, schools), most fully vaccinated people with no COVID-like symptoms do not need to participate in routine surveillance screening.

Fully vaccinated employees of non-healthcare congregate settings (e.g., correctional and detention facilities, homeless shelters) and other high-density workplaces (e.g., meat and poultry processing and manufacturing plants, high-density housing settings) with no COVID-like symptoms do not need to quarantine following an exposure; however testing following an exposure is recommended.

Q. If an individual is fully vaccinated and develops symptoms, should they be tested for COVID-19?
A. Yes. Any individual who develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should immediately isolate, seek medical care, and get tested.

Q. Do I still need to practice masking and physical distancing if I am fully vaccinated?
A. If you've been fully vaccinated you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic. This does not apply to patients, staff or visitors within a healthcare setting.

  • You can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
  • If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
  • You need to pay close attention to the situation at your international destination before traveling outside the United States.
    • You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States 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 United States.
    • You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel.
    • You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
  • If you've been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
    • However, if you live or work in a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still get tested, even if you don't have symptoms.

For now, if you've been fully vaccinated:

  • You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace, in healthcare settings, and in local businesses.
  • If you travel, you should still take steps to protect yourself and others. You will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.  Fully vaccinated international travelers arriving in the United States are still required to get tested 3 days before travel by air into the United States (or show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months) and should still get tested 3-5 days after their trip.
  • You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you've been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
  • People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken the immune system, should talk to their healthcare provider to discuss their activities. They may need to keep taking all precautions to prevent COVID-19.

Information for Healthcare Settings

Q. If I'm fully vaccinated, will I have to wear a mask and maintain physical distancing in healthcare settings?
A. Yes. You should expect doctor's offices, hospitals, nursing homes, and other types of healthcare settings to maintain requirements for masking and physical distancing, including for fully vaccinated persons.

Q. Do healthcare workers who are fully vaccinated need to quarantine following a close contact with an infectious person with COVID-19?
A. Fully vaccinated healthcare workers who are asymptomatic do not need to quarantine or be excluded from work following an exposure. However, testing is recommended immediately and 5–7 days after exposure. More details about exposure and work exclusion for healthcare workers are outlined in PA-HAN-569.

Q. Is quarantine required for patients and long-term care facility (LTCF) residents who are fully vaccinated?
A. Yes, when in healthcare settings, fully vaccinated inpatients and residents should continue to quarantine following prolonged close contact (within 6 feet for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone with SARS-CoV-2 infection. In LTCFs, additional situations beyond close contact may require quarantine (see PA-HAN-567). Quarantine for exposed residents and patients in healthcare settings means they need to be cared for using Transmission-Based Precautions and limit movement outside their rooms. In long-term care facilities, cohorting practices should include the use of a Yellow zone for quarantine of residents with known exposure, regardless of vaccination status, as per PA-HAN-567.

For fully vaccinated residents who are being admitted to a LTCF, quarantine is no longer automatically recommended on admission if they have not had known exposure to someone with SARS-CoV-2 infection in the prior 14 days. Patients and residents with known exposure must continue to be quarantined for 14 days.

If a fully vaccinated patient is discharged to a non-healthcare setting prior to completing their quarantine period and has no symptoms of COVID-19, the person does not need to continue home quarantine and can follow the same guidance outlined in PA-HAN-559 for the community setting.

 Q. Why is the quarantine guidance different for patients and residents in healthcare settings compared to community settings?
A. In general, we don't know how well COVID-19 vaccine prevents transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via asymptomatic carriers. So, while vaccinated persons may have protection, they may be able to unknowingly spread COVID-19. In healthcare settings:

  • Patients and residents are often at high-risk for severe complications from COVID-19;
  • Healthcare facilities can contain unvaccinated persons who are at risk of transmission;
  • Healthcare delivery can make physical distancing difficult or impossible;
  • Masking and physical distancing are still needed to promote safety and prevent transmission.