(NBC News) -- More than 44 million Americans have received at least on dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and as that number goes up, so do questions about when it will be safe to return to certain activities.
Experts say a return to normal won't happen overnight.
"Vaccines are not a suit of armor, but they are getting us closer to the finish line," explained Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist with Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Dr. Schaffner advises that people who have received the vaccine should start small and slow, perhaps by expanding their bubble to include other vaccinated people.
"So two older couples, both everybody completely vaccinated, could get together and do so with relative safety, especially if, in addition to being vaccinated both couples had been very meticulous about masking and social distancing," he says.
Dr. Schaffner also advises significantly more caution in environments that attract larger crowds, like indoor restaurants, churches and gyms, especially if not everyone in your household is vaccinated or you live with anyone considered high-risk.
"You still want to protect yourself. And the other thing is, we still don't know whether these vaccines protect against infection, could you be infected and still pass this virus to other persons? We don't know that," he says.
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