COVID-19 in Fall 2021: From Booster Shot Eligibility to Winter Travel Policies, Here’s Everything You Need to Know

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2021 is winding to a close, yet the COVID-19 pandemic remains prevalent in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a total of 45,571,532 COVID cases in America as of October 27, 2021. Conversely, 190,990,750 million Americans were fully vaccinated by October 27, while 14,429,771 citizens received booster shots by that date.

United States COVID-19 vaccination efforts have been in full swing since the winter of 2020 and the spring of 2021. Many Americans traveled throughout the year (either to reunite with friends and family or for work-related reasons) as COVID cases surged and waned. The CDC released and updated numerous safety guidelines in 2021 as COVID-19 variants like Delta and Mu became more prevalent.

In June 2021, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated individuals — those who received either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine or a single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — could stop wearing masks in (most) public spaces. However, mask mandates have been reinstated in most states as COVID cases continue to fluctuate.

The (now-outdated) June guidance from the CDC, which many local state and federal officials abided by, hinged on trusting that those around you were being honest about their vaccination status. Those guidelines, however, didn't pertain to immunocompromised individuals, at-risk elderly folks, and unvaccinated children. Just a few weeks later — in the wake of Delta variant-related surges and breakthrough cases — the CDC announced in July 2021 that even fully vaccinated individuals should return to masking up in public.

Summer 2021 wasn’t quite the “return to normalcy” that many were hoping for, and, instead, reinforced the challenges that the pandemic presents. Many people who have long faced systemic barriers, misinformation, mistreatment, and other inequities when it comes to healthcare, are still unsure about getting vaccinated. Nonetheless, businesses have reopened their offices, and many schools have physically reopened their doors. Vaccine producers have doubled their efforts to create enough vaccines for everyone, though many people still lack access to these vaccines both nationally and globally.

The fall of 2021 was fraught with a wealth of changes; vaccination mandates, back-to-school policies, and new variants of COVID-19, just to name a few. Today, we'll discuss some of the more recent updates regarding the pandemic, including booster shot eligibility, vaccination eligibility for children, and winter travel policies.

Editor’s Note: While we update this article with the latest information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine rollout, mask guidance, and more, be sure to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites for the most up-to-date announcements.