Coronavirus: CDC recommends masks indoors for some vaccinated people

WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Tuesday that vaccinated individuals resume wearing masks indoors in areas where transmission is high amid a recent spike seen in COVID-19 cases nationwide.

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Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said most new cases are being seen in unvaccinated Americans; however, she said “new science related to the delta variant” prompted a change in the CDC guidance.

“The delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us and to be an opportunist in areas where we have not showed a fortified response against it,” Walensky said. “In areas with substantial or high transmission, CDC recommends vaccinated people wear masks in indoor settings.”

Walensky said the guidance includes all people in K-12 schools.

>> Related: Coronavirus: CDC recommends masks be worn in schools regardless of vaccination status

The CDC defines places with high COVID-19 transmission rates as those where 50 to 100 new cases have been reported per 100,000 people in a seven-day period. Places with substantial transmission rates are reporting more than 100 cases in the same period of time.

On Tuesday, Walensky urged skeptical Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Vaccinated individuals continue to represent a very small amount of transmission occurring around the country,” she said. “We continue to estimate that the risk of a breakthrough infection with symptoms upon exposure to the delta variant is reduced by sevenfold. The reduction is twentyfold for hospitalizations and deaths.”

>> Check your county’s transmission rate on CDC.gov

She added that officials see the mask recommendations as a temporary measure.

“What we really need to do to drive down these transmissions in areas of high transmission is to get more and more people vaccinated, and in the meantime, to use masks,” she said.

In May, the CDC eased its mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated Americans, citing scientific data on the efficacy of vaccines. At the time, Walensky hailed the decision as a return “to some sense of normalcy.”

>> Related: Coronavirus: CDC eases mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated Americans

However, health officials across the U.S. have noted a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases reported as the delta variant continues to spread. Earlier this month, Walensky said case spikes were being driven by people who continue to refuse to get vaccinated against the viral infection.

“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” she said at a White House COVID-19 Response news briefing on July 16. “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk and communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well.”

>> Related: Coronavirus: ‘This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,’ CDC director says

About 34.5 million COVID-19 cases have been reported across the U.S., resulting in more than 611,000 deaths, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. Globally, 194.9 million COVID-19 cases have been reported, resulting in over 4.1 million deaths.

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