CDC backpedals on some masking guidelines, calls for nearly 2/3 of US counties to mask-up indoors

Coronavirus

(AP/NewsNation Now) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says fully vaccinated Americans who live in areas with “substantial and high” transmission should wear masks in indoor public spaces in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said they had reviewed new data in recent days that showed fully vaccinated individuals could spread the delta variant more easily than previous versions of COVID-19.

“This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations,” she said on a conference call with reporters.

The CDC’s website has a map that shows counties with substantial and high transmission. That includes a combined 63.11% of counties in the U.S.

All people in schools should also wear masks, regardless of vaccination.

“The vast majority of infection is happening with unvaccinated individuals,” Walensky said. She added the concern was that vaccinated people may unknowingly introduce the disease to at-risk family or friends.

She said a vaccinated person’s risk of developing symptoms when exposed to the delta variant is reduced 7-fold, and the risk for hospitalization is reduced 20-fold.

The announcement reverses a decision made by the CDC just two months ago. The guidance specified that fully vaccinated people did not have to wear masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. The guidance still called for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters.

This comes following the director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, saying just two weeks ago that the COVID-19 outbreak was becoming “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

For months COVID cases, deaths and hospitalizations were falling steadily, but those trends began to change at the beginning of the summer as a mutated and more transmissible version of the coronavirus, the delta variant, began to spread widely, especially in areas with lower vaccination rates.

“I know 18 months through this pandemic not only are people tired, they’re frustrated,” Walensky said on the call. “We have mental health challenges in this country, we have a lot of continued sickness and death in this country. Our health systems are in some places, being overrun for what is preventable. And I know in the context of all of that it is not a welcomed piece of news that masking is going to be a part of people’s lives who have already been vaccinated.”

About 163.2 million people, or 49.1 % of U.S. adults, have been fully inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer Inc/ BioNTech SE, Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, according to CDC data. 188.7 million people, or 56.8% million adult Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Public health experts, scientific experts, medical experts, when we when has shown them these [delta variant] data, have universally said that this required action,” Walensky said. “I felt that when I saw the data myself.”


The nation’s top health agency is expected to backpedal Tuesday on its masking guidelines and recommend that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging, according to a federal official.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to release the data.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was expected to make an announcement later Tuesday.

For much of the pandemic, the CDC advised Americans to wear masks outdoors if they were within 6 feet of one another.

Then in April, as vaccination rates rose sharply, the agency eased its guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to cover their faces unless they were in a big crowd of strangers. In May, the CDC further eased its guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

The guidance still called for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters, but it cleared the way for reopening workplaces and other venues.

Subsequent CDC guidance said fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks at summer camps or at schools, either.

For months COVID cases, deaths and hospitalizations were falling steadily, but those trends began to change at the beginning of the summer as a mutated and more transmissible version of the coronavirus, the delta variant, began to spread widely, especially in areas with lower vaccination rates.

In recent weeks, a growing number of cities and towns have restored indoor masking rules. St. Louis, Savannah, Georgia, and Provincetown, Massachusetts, are among the places that reimposed mask mandates this month.

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