The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to re-issue guidance calling on vaccinated people to wear masks indoors in certain situations, including in all K-12 schools. The news comes roughly two months after the CDC relaxed its recommendations for some indoor mask-wearing, but also as the Delta variant adds new complications to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
According to the Washington Post, the announcement will come Tuesday afternoon and will include guidance on when to mask up indoors. We’ll update this post when we know more about what the CDC is now recommending. CNN reported that, according to an administration health official, it will include K-12 schools, where they will recommend that everyone mask up regardless of vaccination status.
The news is set to alter guidance issued on May 13. Then, as Yahoo! News reported, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said, “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities large or small without wearing a mask or physical distancing.” Even with that shift, guidance to wear masks remained in place in health care settings, detention facilities, houseless shelters, and on public transportation, including buses, trains.
“In June we were in this virtuous cycle, where cases were going down, people were getting vaccinated, everyone said happy days are here again, and let their guard down,” Robert Wachter, chairman of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told the Washington Post. “When things change, they don’t change in a linear fashion, they change in an exponential fashion.”
“Nobody wants to go backward but you have to deal with the facts on the ground, and the facts on the ground are that it’s a pretty scary time and there are a lot of vulnerable people,” Wachter told the Post. “I think the biggest thing we got wrong was not anticipating that 30 percent of the country would choose not to be vaccinated.”
According to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker, 56.8% of the total U.S. population has received at least one dose and 49.1% are fully vaccinated. Those numbers jump to 66.5% for one dose and 57.5% for fully vaxxed when you exclude people under 12, for whom there is not currently an authorized vaccine to use. Vaccine trials for people ages 5 to 11 are underway at the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) urging, the New York Times and Washington Post reported this week. One FDA official told NBC News earlier this month that vaccines for people under 12 could be ready sometime this winter.
The CDC news comes as some areas have re-imposed local mask mandates amid surging case numbers. Several vaccines have proven effective against COVID-19, even from the Delta variant. But there are concerns that vaccinated people could still be infected in “breakthrough” infections and transmit the highly contagious viral mutation.
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