Story at a glance
- CDC Director Rochelle Walensky formally advised vaccinated Americans to wear masks in indoor settings with high transmission rates.
- This backtracks previous advice permitting vaccinated people to abstain from wearing masks in accordance with municipal regulations.
- This comes as cases of the delta variant rise across the U.S.
Backpedaling on previous decisions to reverse COVID-19 public health guidelines, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Tuesday that vaccinated people should continue to wear masks in public spaces set in places with a high rate of virus spread.
This announcement was largely spurred by the recent uptick in new infections linked to the contagious delta variant, along with a large number of reports of breakthrough infections.
Agency Director Rochelle Walensky cited new research that suggests fully vaccinated people could still carry high levels of viral loads and aid in the transmission process, even if they don’t get infected themselves.
“The delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us and to be an opportunist,” Walensky said during the press call. “In 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.”
New COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed over the past two weeks per new national data, with associated hospitalizations and deaths moving in tandem.
States like Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and parts of Florida are experiencing some of the worst outbreaks of the delta variant in the country, but other regions and municipalities have reported upticks in new infections as well.
These states all boast low vaccination rates, which has enabled the virus to spread.
The delta variant is considered to be more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain, with some research suggesting that its viral load — or the amount of viral particles in any given infected individual — is 1,000 times higher than other coronavirus strains.
Surges in new infections have prompted multiple public health organizations, along with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, to call for the mandatory vaccinations of employees who work with potentially vulnerable patients.