Fully vaccinated? What you can do, according to CDC and University guidelines


Illustration by Yunkyo Kim

While the CDC has continued to revise its safety guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals, Northwestern has not yet announced any rule changes for vaccinated students or a vaccine mandate for the upcoming school year.

Maia Pandey, Assistant Campus Editor

As of mid-April, Illinois residents over 16 are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and Northwestern is prioritizing students for first-dose appointments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also revised guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals on masking, social distancing and quarantining.

NU has not revised its COVID-19 guidelines for fully vaccinated students nor has it announced a vaccination requirement for Fall 2021. The University does, however, recommend students disclose their vaccination status to help inform ongoing rule changes, according to an April 16 email from Vice President for Operations Luke Figora. 

“By disclosing your vaccination status, you are helping us…be prepared to respond to changing public health guidelines associated with vaccination status,” Figora wrote in the email.

Here’s a guide on what you can do according to CDC guidelines after you’re fully vaccinated — and what you still can’t under University rules.

Masking and social distancing

The CDC announced yesterday that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to mask outdoors, unless in crowded settings. They can also gather indoors, maskless and non-distanced with other fully vaccinated people as well as unvaccinated but low-risk individuals in a single household. 

NU requires everyone on campus to mask up, indoors and outdoors, and recommends double masking. Private offices, personal residences and residence hall rooms are the only exceptions to the mask mandate. While NU does not allow maskless gatherings outside of eating areas, fully vaccinated students should feel safe eating together in the dining halls. 

Testing and quarantining

According to CDC guidelines, fully vaccinated individuals do not have to test or quarantine after known exposure to the virus, provided they remain asymptomatic. They also don’t have to undergo routine testing and can travel domestically without testing or self-quarantining. These individuals may travel internationally without quarantining upon return to the United States and without testing before departure, unless the destination country requires people to do so.

However, NU still requires all students exposed to the virus to quarantine for at least a week at Foster-Walker Complex and test negative twice before returning to their dorms. Students also had to quarantine under Wildcat Wellness at the beginning of Winter and Spring Quarter, regardless of vaccination status.

Weinberg freshman Finn Wintz spent a week this quarter at Plex after exposure to the virus, despite receiving his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine two weeks before exposure.

While he was not yet fully vaccinated, Wintz said the University’s quarantine order was a little frustrating because Pfizer guarantees 80 percent immunity two weeks after the first dose, compared to approximately 66 percent immunity from the singular Johnson & Johnson dose.

“That seemed a little weird, that I still had to go through the full (quarantine) period,” Wintz said. “But then again, I do understand that it’s somewhat of a slippery slope, and the guidelines are constantly changing.”

Ongoing precautions

Despite large numbers of people getting their shots, the CDC still advises fully vaccinated people to wear masks in public indoor spaces and when interacting with unvaccinated, high-risk people. Fully vaccinated individuals should also wear a mask if gathering with unvaccinated people from multiple households and avoid large, in-person events. If they experience symptoms of COVID-19, vaccinated people should still get tested.

NU also has the above guidelines in place for students, vaccinated or unvaccinated. Weinberg freshman Lily Ng, who received the Pfizer vaccine through the University, was contact traced after her first dose this quarter. 

Most of her friends are at least partially vaccinated, Ng said. Despite her exposure this month, Ng said she feels protected from the virus now, especially with her second dose scheduled.

“There’s always some risk involved, but I trust my friends, and I think they stay relatively safe,” Ng said. “I just hope that next year things will be a lot different.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @maiapandey

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The Daily’s COVID-19 vaccination guide: what you need to know and how to get a COVID-19 vaccine
How members of the Northwestern community can get vaccinated