It's now closing in on 13 months since the pandemic reached our slice of the heartland. There's a lot of promising signs, but letting up too soon can still bring dangerous consequences.

As more and more get vaccinated, particularly the most vulnerable, we will one day be able to peel off the masks and get back to a pre-pandemic normal. But right now is just a bit too soon.

The Centers for Disease Control is starting to relax some restrictions for those who have received a completed vaccine series — that's two shots of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

On Friday, the CDC updated its guidance.

Fully vaccinated people can travel safely within the United States. Still wear a mask over your nose and mouth, and try to avoid large crowds. Those not yet vaccinated are at higher risk still, but the CDC recommends getting a viral test 1-3 days before the trip, wear a mask, social distance, wash hands often, and after travel is complete get a viral test and self-quarantine for seven days.

This adds to the previously announced guidance for those who have been fully vaccinated.

— You can safely gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people, without wearing a mask.

— You can safely gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household, unless they or someone in their household are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

— If you've been around someone who has COVID-19, you don't need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.

If you're vaccinated, you should continue to social distance in public, and wear masks. The CDC says this is guidance "for now," which indicates it will change as we get closer to herd immunity and learn more about the vaccines.

Here's why: we know the vaccines are safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 disease, particularly severe illness and death.

But, the medical field is still evaluating the effectiveness of vaccines against variants of the disease. So far, it appears the vaccines will work, but some not as well.

We also don't yet know how well the vaccines will do at preventing the spread. Early data is promising, but experts aren't yet confident enough to know.

There are also studies that will continue to pinpoint how long vaccines work.

We're a long way from herd immunity, and these questions will continue to get better answers as more people get vaccinated and more data is collected.

Spring is here, Easter is a holiday for new beginnings. It's been a long haul but there's an end in sight.

Experts say you should get vaccinated as soon as you're eligible, with whichever of the vaccines are available. We understand there's skepticism from some. If you have questions, we're sure your doctor would love to help. Use trusted sources like the Food and Drug Administration for information. Herd immunity, with the vaccines, is a viable path to normalcy.

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