St. Louis County and city health departments recommended on Thursday that vaccinated residents wear masks indoors when among people whose vaccination statuses are unknown, as concern mounts over the delta coronavirus variant.
Both health departments issued a joint public health advisory that adjusted their mask guidance for fully vaccinated individuals, following in the footsteps of Los Angeles County.
The health officials cited rising COVID-19 cases and the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant.
“This pandemic is not over,” Faisal Khan, the acting director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “The virus and its variants present a real and imminent danger to the health of people in the St. Louis region. We must encourage vaccination and continued precautions.”
The advisory acknowledges that the available COVID-19 vaccines are “highly effective against the disease” but warned vaccinated individuals can still contract COVID-19 and spread it to unvaccinated people, including children younger than 12, who are not eligible to get the shot.
Nearby Jefferson County Health Department also released a health advisory calling vaccinated people to wear masks indoors unless they know the vaccination status of every person around. The county cited a 42 percent increase in new cases, with most among 10- to 19-year-olds, and advised children to avoid large gatherings.
St. Louis's announcement follows the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s recommendation for all people to wear masks indoors “as precaution” no matter their vaccination status.
Los Angeles was considered an outlier straying from the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) guidance that fully vaccinated people could go maskless in most outdoor and indoor settings, besides, for instance, public transit.
The World Health Organization has also instructed vaccinated people to keep their faces covered as the delta variant spreads worldwide.
But the CDC has not signaled any plans to revise its national mask guidance, with several Biden administration officials reiterating this week that vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask in most situations.
“People at the local level depending on the on-ground situation will make recommendations or not according to the local situation,” top infectious diseases expert Anthony FauciAnthony FauciMore than 40 Texas hospitals face ICU bed shortages FDA mulling to allow 'mix and match' COVID-19 vaccine booster shots: report The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Remembrances flow in after Powell's death MORE said during a Thursday briefing.
“But the broad recommendation that the CDC makes based on the high degree of effectiveness of the vaccine remains unchanged,” he added.