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Seeking advice: I want to play poker maskless and drink whiskey with my buddies. Can I do that indoors?

playing poker maskless
Photo via Poker Photos/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The coronavirus has forced us to adapt to a new normal. One day, if people take precautions and wear their masks and get the vaccine when it’s available, perhaps the new normal will revert back to the way things used to be.

Until then, you might have questions about how you’re supposed to live your life in this new world. Hopefully, we can give you the answers.

So, as we do our best Dear Abby and/or Ask Ann Landers impression, let’s answer the query that’s most on your mind.

Q: This past week, I went over to a buddy’s house to play poker. There were six of us overall on the back deck, and all of us were vaccinated (three of us fully vaccinated and the others with one dose a piece). We didn’t wear masks, and we were constantly eating and drinking whiskey and beer. It felt great, like you could kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic.

But did we have to play outside, because we figured it was safer out there. It was a little chilly and windy, and it would have been slightly more comfortable if we had played inside the house. Since all of us had at least one vaccination, would it have been OK to move the game indoors and still not wear our masks? Or is the world still not there yet? 

A: Now that more than 60 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the vaccine (and more than 30 million are fully vaccinated), the CDC released new guidelines about what vaccinated people can safely do. In effect, you get a little more freedom.

Here’s what the CDC says of people who are fully vaccinated: “Indoor visits between fully vaccinated people who do not wear masks or physically distance from one another are likely low risk. For example, if you are fully vaccinated, it is likely a low risk for you to invite other fully vaccinated friends to dinner inside your private residence.” People who are vaccinated also don’t need to quarantine if they happen to come into contact with somebody who tests positive for COVID-19.

So, if you and just one buddy were hanging out with each other, you’d probably be fine to move inside. If a fully vaccinated person was visiting an unvaccinated person inside, there wouldn’t be much risk for the vaccinated party, so the consideration should go to the person who hasn’t been inoculated. But if the unvaccinated person isn’t a high-risk possibility, the risk is minimal. 

Here’s something else to consider: The CDC says this regarding large- and medium-size gatherings. “All people, regardless of vaccination status, should adhere to current guidance to avoid medium- or large-sized in-person gatherings and to follow any applicable local guidance restricting the size of gatherings. If they choose to participate, fully vaccinated people should continue to adhere to prevention measures that reduce spread, including wearing a well-fitted mask, maintaining physical distance from others, and washing hands frequently.”

It’s unclear if a poker party of six people is considered a medium-size gathering, but I also wouldn’t consider a half-dozen people a small-size gathering. At this point, the risk to move inside with six vaccinated people is probably small, but the CDC isn’t necessarily recommending it. Therefore, I won’t either. Play your poker maskless. Drink your whiskey. Eat your chips and queso. But do it outside for now. 

If you missed our last Dear Abby offering, we answered a question about, if your state has ditched its mask mandate, whether you should stop wearing them.

Josh Katzowitz

Written by Josh Katzowitz