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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated COVID-19 safety guidelines to recommend vaccinated people in delta variant hotspots around the United States return to wearing masks indoors.
“The vast majority of transmission … hospitalization and death is almost exclusively happening among unvaccinated people,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Tuesday. “That said, if you have a vaccinated individual who is in a place that was substantial or high transmission … we believe it's important to wear a mask in those settings.”
The agency issued updated masking guidance on Tuesday for vaccinated people in areas with high concentrations of new infections, as well as for students, teachers, and staff returning to schools in person next month.
Walensky has said in the past that people who are vaccinated are largely protected from severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19, but the rapid spread of the delta variant in regions of the U.S. with low vaccination rates, particularly in the South, has changed the agency's thinking. Walensky on Tuesday also said there is new evidence that people infected with the delta variant may be contagious even if they're fully vaccinated.
The agency's decision to reinstate masking recommendations rankled some Republicans in Congress, who characterized the policy reversal as fearmongering that could erode public confidence in the vaccines among those who have resisted getting them.
For instance, Kansas Republican Sen. Roger Marshall said Tuesday that people, especially vaccine holdouts, should believe in the science, "not anxiety or panic" due to "inconsistent CDC guidance."
Washington Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers also said the Biden administration was leading the COVID-19 response with "shame and fear."
"The CDC's updated guidance deeply undermines vaccine confidence," Rodgers said Tuesday. "Mask mandates for more command and control will not build trust — only resentment."
Walensky said less than a week ago that “being fully vaccinated gives you a high degree of protection against infection and an even higher degree of protection against severe illness, hospitalization … even against the delta variant.” Still, vaccinations began to dip in April and recently plateaued at about 591,000 doses administered daily over the past week, according to a Bloomberg analysis. The Biden administration is pressuring holdouts to get the shots. Vaccine mandates are also gaining momentum. For instance, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Monday that all patient-facing healthcare workers, such as doctors, dentists, nurses, and physician assistants, must be vaccinated for COVID-19.
Federal health officials debated whether to update masking recommendations over the weekend, CNN reported Tuesday, but they have not said publicly that they believe vaccinated people are still at risk of getting sick or hospitalized with COVID-19. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, said in a recent town hall that the agency is likely to recommend widespread masking in schools even among vaccinated teachers, staff, and students ages 12 to 18.
The CDC abruptly changed masking guidance in May to say that vaccinated people can ditch their masks when indoors, though unvaccinated people should still wear them. However, some states such as Florida had already taken measures to suspend COVID-19 restrictions, citing the CDC’s confidence in the vaccines’ efficacy.
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Original Author: Cassidy Morrison
Original Location: CDC recommends some vaccinated people wear masks indoors