The CDC recommends you wear a mask indoors again if your area has “substantial or high” COVID transmission.
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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Tuesday that fully vaccinated Americans should go back to wearing masks indoors if they live in an area with “substantial or high” transmission of COVID-19, citing the danger of the now-dominant delta variant.
Counties that have substantial COVID transmission had 50-100 cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days, the agency said. Counties that have high transmission had 100 or more cases of COVID in the past seven days. A CDC map of the US codes substantial communities orange and high communities red so you can find your county and its transmission rate.
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CDC Director Rochelle Walensky made the announcement at a press briefing. She said that after reviewing new scientific evidence on how the delta variant “behaves differently” from variants of the past, data shows that symptomatic breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people, though still rare, might be as likely to be contagious as infections in unvaccinated people.
“This new science is worrisome, and unfortunately warrants an update,” Walensky said.
The CDC also announced a recommendation that all students, teachers and visitors at K-12 schools wear masks while indoors, regardless of vaccination status. In-person learning will still be a priority, as laid out by the CDC earlier this month. Children under 12 years old aren’t yet able to get vaccinated against COVID. In addition to young children, the new recommendation may be directed at protecting immunocompromised people, who aren’t as protected by the vaccines.
“On that exception that we might have a vaccine breakthrough, we wanted people to understand that they could pass this disease onto someone else,” Walensky said.
At the briefing, Walensky said communities with low vaccination rates are experiencing a significant spread of COVID cases and are also seeing “severe outcomes.” Even with the delta variant, the risk of COVID infection with symptoms is reduced sevenfold if you’re vaccinated, while your risk of hospitalization or death is reduced twentyfold when vaccinated, she said.
The expected change comes after a rise in reports of some breakthrough infections of the highly contagious delta variant. The CDC’s most recent advice contradicts that of the World Health Organization, which says everyone should continue to wear face masks in crowded areas.
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