The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising fully vaccinated individuals to wear masks indoors in public places where transmission rates are high. The agency is also recommending that children, teachers, and staff wear masks in schools this fall.
“This pandemic continues to pose a serious threat to the health of all Americans,” Rochelle Walensky, CDC Director, said. “Today, we have new science related to the delta variant that requires us to update the guidance regarding what you can do when you are fully vaccinated.”
“I really do believe that masking right now, especially for those unvaccinated, is a temporary measure. What we really need to do to drive down these transmissions, in the areas of high transmission, is to get more and more people vaccinated, and in the meantime to use masks.”
The new guidelines come as infection rates surge. The delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is responsible for the majority of new cases. Walensky says the variant behaves “uniquely differently from past strains of the virus.” People that are fully vaccinated can still spread the virus to others.
“In a areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public, indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the delta variant, and protect others. This includes schools,” Walensky said.
“We have places and counties and states here that are now reporting over 300 cases per 100,000 over a seven say period. So really an extraordinary amount of viral transmission, which is what we’re concerned about,” the Director of the CDC said.
President Joe Biden will discuss his plans to get more Americans vaccinated on Thursday.
“Although most U.S. adults are vaccinated, too many are not. While we have seen an increase in vaccinations in recent days, we still need to do better,” the President said. “More vaccinations and mask wearing in the areas most impacted by the Delta variant will enable us to avoid the kind of lockdowns, shutdowns, school closures, and disruptions we faced in 2020.”
Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician who has served on the advisory panel for the CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), told CNBC that half of the United States population is not fully vaccinated and that vaccinated individuals are not protected from mild disease or spreading the virus.
“It is not a bold prediction to believe that SARS-CoV-2 is going to be circulating two or three years from now. I mean there are 195 countries out there, most of which haven’t been given a single dose of the vaccine,” Dr. Offit said. “Will it still be circulating in the United States? I think that would be very, very likely.”
The United States announced yesterday that international travel restrictions would remain in place due to the rising cases of COVID-19 worldwide.
“The reality is we are dealing with much different strain of this virus than we were even earlier in the spring back in May, when the masking guidance was provided by the CDC at that time,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “That is their job. Their job is to look at evolving information, evolving data, an evolving historic pandemic and provide guidance to the American public. That’s exactly what they will do and what they will provide specific details on later this afternoon.”
“I hope all Americans who live in the areas covered by the CDC guidance will follow it; I certainly will when I travel to these areas,” President Biden said.