The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is updating its mask guidance as the delta variant of the coronavirus continues its grip on the United States.
The agency announced it is now recommending universal indoor masking at schools regardless of vaccination status and masking for vaccinated individuals in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.
“We believe the vast majority of transmission is occurring in unvaccinated people and through unvaccinated people but unlike the Alpha variant that we had back in May where we didn’t believe if you were vaccinated you could transmit further, this is different now with the Delta variant. We’re seeing now that it’s actually possible if you’re a rare breakthrough infection that you can transmit further which is the reason for the change,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a telebriefing Tuesday.
CDC data shows more than 60 percent of US counties have substantial or high levels of community transmission, including the entirety of Louisiana, Arkansas and Florida.
“This delta variant’s that’s out there is really really highly infectious and we’re seeing increasing number of reports of breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people. So the idea that we should really go back and wear masks to try to reduce transmission I think is a very reasonable thing to do," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky
Last week, the Florida Department of Health said approximately 6 percent of Florida cases were among vaccinated individuals in the last month, noting most cases were among unvaccinated individuals.
“It really really wants to live and infect more and more people and its developing new and more effective ways to do so and so our response to that virus can’t really just be a single-layered response we really need to have a multifactorial response to combat this and hit it in every way we possibly can to defeat this thing,” said Unnasch.
Those who have battled or lost loved ones to the virus reacted to the update.
“Initial reaction was just moreso why it was lifted to begin with. Because we still were seeing so many cases and the vaccine doesn’t necessarily mean immunity,” said Ashley Pelose, who lost her father after a battle with COVID19 and contracted the virus herself.
“Nobody wants to wear masks all the time but you’ve got to protect the vulnerable, protect everybody else by wearing the mask,” she said.
Floridian Robert Marrero battled COVID-19 for more than a month in a hospital last year, and says he is still dealing with the effects 16 months later. Fully vaccinated, he said he’ll listen to the CDC.
“I will listen because I mean I’m almost 60 years old, I want to last a couple more years and enjoy life with the grandchildren and all we have to do is just listen,” said Marrero.
The CDC continues to urge vaccinations to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death, and reduce the spread of the virus.
“With the Delta various vaccinating more Americans now is more urgent than ever. The highest spread of cases and severe outcomes is happening in places with low vaccination rates, and among unvaccinated people,” said Walensky.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.