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MAKING PROGRESS: Rochester health experts detail vaccination efforts as they expand to new groups

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Man received COVID-19 vaccine

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- As more and more people get vaccinated, many wonder when life will return to normal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has changed some guidelines for those fully vaccinated people. This will allow grandparents to hug grandchildren again and some gatherings to resume. However, some things are still considered risky.

"I think they are appropriately labeled as interim recommendations as guidance not guidelines," said Dr. Gregory Poland, Mayo Clinic vaccinologist. "There is the ability to make individualized decisions based on risk."

The new CDC recommendations are for fully vaccinated people. This refers to those who have received both shots of the Pfizer or Moderna shot or the single Johnson & Johnson shot and waited 14 days.

Gatherings among other fully vaccinated people are allowed as are gatherings among those of the same household. What's still not allowed are gatherings with multiple households or unvaccinated people with health conditions.

"Then these wouldn't hold," Poland said. "The advice would be to hold your social event outdoors, wear a mask and maintain distancing."

The CDC still warns against large gatherings and long-distance travel, because case numbers vary across the country.

"In Rochester, Minnesota, our level of community transmission like many places in the U.S. is very low," Poland said.

More positive news in Minnesota is the expansion of eligibility for groups to get the vaccine.

"As we move into the second tier, targeted essential workers like food productions are a priority and people with very specific underlying conditions that put them at higher risk of severe disease and death," said Graham Briggs, Olmsted County Public Health director.

The next groups include those 45 and up with a health conditions and those younger than 45 with two or more health conditions.

"We do stand ready to vaccinate up to 50,000 people per week. The supply so far has not allowed us to ramp up to that," said Dr. Melanie Swift, Mayo physician and part of the clinic's COVID-19 vaccine allocation group.

Until then, local health experts say getting on a vaccine waiting list is key.

"Sign up for each site that you're aware of. The first place that you hear from, get vaccine from them," Briggs said.

As of Wednesday, almost 32 percent of Olmsted County residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

As a reminder, Mayo Clinic says achieving herd immunity would require between 60 and 80 percent of the country being vaccinated.

Alex Tejada

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