Getting your COVID-19 vaccine can feel like a weight coming off your shoulders: Finally, you have a high level of protection against an illness that’s so contagious and has caused so much loss. Who knew a simple vaccination could produce such a powerful sense of relief?

But even if you’re vaccinated, the fact remains that not everyone else is. So, is it safe to go to a gathering with unvaccinated people?

To help clear things up a little, we put together these answers on how to approach common scenarios that have a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

What are the masking guidelines for vaccinated people?

Masking guidelines for vaccinated and unvaccinated people have changed a lot during the pandemic. At this point, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sums up the guidance as, “Wear a mask when there’s a lot of COVID in your community.”

The good news is that, right now, COVID-19 transmission rates are low across most of the country.

CDC also recommends masks if you’re spending time with people who have weaker immune systems – this can help keep them from getting sick. Of course, you can continue to wear a mask indoors and outdoors based on your personal comfort level.

How to keep children healthy during COVID

The COVID-19 vaccine is the safest, most effective way to protect children from COVID-19 and help bring the pandemic to an end.

If you’ve been waiting for increased availability of vaccines for infants, kids and teens, you’re in luck. Right now, everyone who’s at least 6 months old can – and should – get a COVID-19 vaccine.

If there are health reasons why your child isn’t able to get vaccinated, talk to your doctor about treatments to reduce the chance of severe COVID-19.

Can children get (or spread) COVID-19? Are they really at risk?

Yes, while it is true that fewer children get infected with COVID-19 than adults, COVID-19 cases have been reported in all age groups – including infants. Children who develop COVID-19 also sometimes develop a serious medical complication called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can reduce your child’s risk of severe illness.

Where to take unvaccinated children during COVID-19

Can unvaccinated children visit their grandparents?

Yes, if their grandparents have gotten their COVID-19 vaccines.

For even lower risk of catching COVID-19, consider holding family time outdoors. Particularly if the weather is nice, it’s never bad for kids to burn off their extra energy outside, anyways.

Is it safe to set up playdates?

Until your child and their friends are fully vaccinated, it’s safest if playdates include mask wearing. You should also make a good attempt at social distancing (which, we know, can be tricky with active little ones).

Outdoor playdates are also safer options than indoor ones – trips to the park, nature hikes or backyard activities are good choices.

Are there safe family vacation options during COVID-19?

The CDC recommends unvaccinated people – including unvaccinated children – don’t travel.

If you have one or more unvaccinated family members and choose to travel during COVID-19, consider staying in a place you have to yourself, like a vacation rental or a secluded campsite. And before heading off to a different country or state, pay attention to the COVID-19 situation at your travel destination so you know what to expect.

Another good idea if you’re planning a vacation? Pick activities that don’t put your children at higher risk for COVID-19. A crowded amusement park, resort or beach may not be the best choice for unvaccinated kids. But on the other hand, a trip to a national park, relative’s house or socially distanced attraction could be a memorable experience that’s also a lower health risk.

Can unvaccinated kids go out to eat with their adults?

Yes, but if you can, sit outside – outdoor dining is safer. In addition, try to keep your masks up when not eating or drinking.

Another thing to consider is many restaurants are relaxing their social distancing policies, so it might be difficult to find a table that meets your needs. Consider asking for a place that’s a little farther away from other people, if possible – many restaurants will be happy to rearrange things a bit to accommodate your family.

How to handle events that mix vaccinated and unvaccinated people

Maybe you’ve been invited to a party, but you’re not sure if everyone there’s been vaccinated against COVID-19. Or you’re going to a holiday gathering, but you know a few of your cousins haven’t been vaccinated.

There are ways to have safer in-person events during COVID-19. Here are some helpful tips:

  • If you’re organizing an event, you set the rules. Does everyone need to be vaccinated? Does everyone need to wear masks? Are there virtual options for people who can’t meet your attendance criteria? As the person holding the event, you should set, communicate and enforce clear rules so people know what to expect.
  • Consider setting event rules that don’t single out unvaccinated people. While we definitely suggest all people get a COVID-19 vaccine, you may wish to invite friends or family members who haven’t been vaccinated. In these situations, you may want to encourage everyone to wear a mask – regardless of vaccination status. You may also consider hosting your event outdoors for the greatest safety. Rules like these may help all your guests feel more included, and they may help balance public health safety with personal choices.
  • If you’re attending an event, learn what you can. For public events like sports or concerts, it’s most realistic to assume that at least a few people in the crowd are unvaccinated. But for private events, vaccination status may vary. Ask the event organizer if they’re taking any COVID-19 precautions related to vaccination status, masking or social distancing. With that information, you can plan accordingly.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19. Pay attention to how you’re feeling after spending time with people who haven’t been vaccinated. If you start to experience symptoms of COVID-19, make a virtual appointment with your doctor or get tested for COVID-19. If you find out that you’ve been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, get tested 3-5 days after the interaction, even if you don’t have symptoms.

Everyone has their own comfort level when it comes to starting to socialize again. Some people may only want to be around vaccinated people, while others may simply prefer that unvaccinated people wear masks. Some people may feel more relaxed in a friend’s backyard than in an event room at a restaurant.

No matter what, it’s important to be patient and respect choices. A declined invitation or missing attendee isn’t necessarily a personal slight – rather, everyone is on their own schedule with getting back to normal, or determining what normal now means for them. Try to keep a positive attitude.

Make COVID-19 vaccination a priority

Parties with friends, trips to new restaurants and in-person sports are something we’ve all missed. While new strains of COVID-19 continue to change guidelines and recommendations, there’s no doubt that getting a COVID-19 vaccine – and a follow-up COVID-19 booster shot – are still the best options for most people.