Now that the vaccine is beginning to spread to more Coloradans, the natural question becomes: What can you do once you get your second inoculation?
"This is really pretty straightforward," said Lisa Miller, an epidemiology professor with Colorado School of Public Health. "Right now, the vaccination doesn't change what you can and can't do."
The exception is, of course, that you're far less likely to develop symptoms and feel sick from COVID. But it remains unclear, Miller said, if you can still spread the disease after you've been vaccinated. That means you'll need to keep wearing masks, keep social distancing and continue living life as you have since March, at least for now.
As has been a central problem throughout the pandemic, the potential for asymptomatic spread from vaccinated patients remains.
"Until we get more info, we can't say, 'Sure, go about your business,'" Miller said, "because even though you yourself are going to be fine because you got your two doses, you're not going to get sick, but if you have asymptomatic infection and you think it's fine to visit your elderly parents or your friends who haven't been vaccinated, you could unknowingly expose them to COVID."
The recommendations still apply even if you're going to visit a friend who's also been vaccinated. Socializing should still be confined to your immediate household, Miller said.
It's unclear when researchers and experts will have enough information to determine if vaccinations can allow for less-profound limits on personal behavior. Miller said there are ongoing studies into people who've been vaccinated, and those findings will help answer the central question. Variants, which thus have touched Colorado without changing the situation much, also pose a potential obstacle, as more pop up and research is done into how they react to the vaccine.
All of which is to say: Vaccine or no vaccine, Coloradans need to — and should expect to be required to — wear masks, socially distance in public and avoid social gatherings. Once more information about the disease is available, or when a significant chunk of the population is inoculated, that may change. For now, neither of those is forthcoming.
"That's the message that's been given," Miller said. "I hope that's the message that people are hearing."
Even though people in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, sites of the most deadly outbreaks in Colorado, are increasingly vaccinated, it's not clear when restrictions on visitations there will be fully lifted. Eric France, Colorado's chief medical office, told reporters Monday that those changes will take "a little time." For nursing homes, visitation guidance will come down from the federal government, which regulates those facilities via the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Colorado had moved to stop visitations fully as health officials studied the prevalence of a new COVID variant here. But now that the presence of that variant has proven to be low, France said the state will be announcing a reversal of its position.