It’s a natural question that we hear regularly: Amid substantial COVID-19 spread, what does ADHS recommend for people going to large events, small gatherings, grocery stores, restaurants, and more? 

The answer is simple and no doubt frustrating to many: As much as we all want to be done with COVID-19, the pandemic isn’t done with us, and that applies even to those of us who are fully vaccinated. It’s important for everyone to act accordingly when spending time around people you don’t live with by following current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for the current COVID-19 transmission level in Arizona.

The highly contagious Delta variant has driven up cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, primarily among those who aren’t vaccinated. It’s rare for a fully vaccinated person to still get COVID-19, but it does happen. These breakthrough cases are normally much milder, and vaccinated individuals are far less likely to be hospitalized or to die from COVID-19. But the safest course of action even if you are fully vaccinated is taking steps to avoid a potential breakthrough case and the potential that you will spread COVID-19.  

A month ago, our former director, Dr. Cara Christ, explained this in news media interviews, and it bears repeating with Labor Day weekend and a season of fall gatherings coming up: 

Where there is substantial or high COVID-19 transmission, as is currently the case across Arizona, everyone, including fully vaccinated individuals, should:

  • mask up in public indoor settings;
  • continue following other proven mitigation strategies, including physical distancing of at least 6 feet and frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizer;
  • stay home if sick; and
  • get tested for COVID-19 if they have symptoms or 3-5 days after exposure to someone who is positive. 

Our challenge in public health is how best to encourage individuals to adopt healthy behaviors to protect their health and wellness and to promote community health and wellness. We face this every day on a wide range of health issues including obesity, heart disease, cancer, and injury prevention. It’s the same when it comes to COVID-19. 

We continue to promote vaccines and point to data showing that the vast majority of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 are occurring among those who are unvaccinated or aren’t fully vaccinated. Safe, free, highly effective, and widely available vaccines are the key to checking COVID-19 and returning to normal lives. We urge everyone 12 and older to get vaccinated if they haven’t already. 

In the meantime, everyone continues to play a role in reducing the spread of COVID-19 by following public health recommendations that are proven to work.