CDC mask guidance targets ‘substantial and high’ COVID-19 spread. That means Idaho

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new mask guidelines on Tuesday, recommending that Americans who live in places with “substantial and high transmission” of the coronavirus again wear face coverings indoors, even if they are vaccinated.

The CDC said that masks should again be worn in counties experiencing this type of COVID-19 spread, and according to a CDC map, almost all counties in the Treasure Valley have high enough case levels to warrant the increased precautions.

Ada, Canyon, Elmore, Boise, Gem and Valley counties all have substantial or high spread at the moment, according to CDC county-level data. Several counties in North Idaho and the southeastern part of the state, such as Shoshone and Jefferson, have high spread.

On Monday, Idaho recorded more than 600 new COVID-19 cases and five deaths, according to data from the Department of Health and Welfare. Those counts include the weekend.

Health officials have tied the current surge in COVID-19 cases around the U.S. to the delta variant, a highly contagious version of the virus that is derailing the country’s efforts to get past the pandemic. At a press conference on Tuesday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the new strain of the virus behaves differently from earlier versions, and that on “rare occasions” vaccinated people may continue to spread the virus to others.

In Idaho, vaccinations — which doctors and health officials say are safe and effective at preventing severe COVID-19 illness, and still the best way to curb the virus — lag far behind national averages. Not quite 46% of Idahoans 12 and older are fully vaccinated, compared to 57.5% nationally.

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