Coronavirus weekly need-to-know: Mask guidance, delta variant, booster shots & more

·6 min read

Each week, we offer you a roundup of our noteworthy coronavirus coverage.

More than 34.7 million people in the United States have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Friday morning, July 30, according to Johns Hopkins University. That includes more than 612,000 people who have died nationwide.

Globally, there have been more than 196 million confirmed cases of the highly infectious virus, with more than 4.2 million reported deaths.

More than 163.8 million Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of July 28 — about 49% of the total population, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker shows. About 60% of adults and 58% of people aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated in the U.S.

Here’s what happened between July 23 and July 29.

Masks recommended for the COVID-19 vaccinated in some cases

Federal health officials now recommend that, in areas with “substantial and high transmission” of the virus, people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 should wear masks in public indoor settings, including schools, to help prevent the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

Data show the delta variant behaves differently than other strains of the virus and that in “rare occasions” some vaccinated people infected with it may be able to spread the virus to others.

Continue reading to learn more about the updated guidance.

Face masks recommended for those vaccinated against COVID — in these cases, CDC says

Are COVID-19 symptoms different with the delta variant?

The delta coronavirus variant continues to surge in the United States, now accounting for 83% of COVID-19 cases in the United States. That represents a stark difference from earlier this month, with cases on the rise in all 50 states in July.

Those who get the delta variant may see symptoms that differ slightly from the original strain.

Here’s a look at how the symptoms compare.

Are COVID symptoms different with the delta variant? Here’s what experts say

Pfizer says its booster shot ‘strongly’ protects against delta variant

Drugmaker Pfizer said data suggest a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine provides a strong boost in protection against the highly contagious delta coronavirus variant.

The company said in an earnings report that initial findings suggest antibody levels against the delta variant were five times higher among people ages 18 to 55 and 11 times higher among those ages 65 to 85 after the third dose of its vaccine compared to after the second dose.

It also said there’s a potential for an up to “100-fold increase in delta neutralization” after a third dose.

Read on to see what else the report found.

Pfizer vaccine booster shot? Company says it ‘strongly’ protects against delta variant

Can mixing COVID-19 vaccines boost protection against delta variant?

Earlier in the pandemic, the concept of mixing COVID-19 shots from different companies was mostly discussed in regards to a national vaccine supply shortage.

Now, scientists across the globe are studying the method through a different lens. Can receiving a different COVID-19 shot for your second dose provide extra protection against more contagious coronavirus variants?

Although preliminary, data on mixing shots, scientifically known as “heterologous prime-boost vaccination,” offers some positive news. But experts say more research is needed to fully support this approach as the world grapples with COVID-19 case surges unseen since pre-vaccine peaks.

Can mixing COVID vaccines boost protection against delta variant? What early data shows

What is high COVID-19 transmission? Map shows areas where CDC recommends masks

Fully vaccinated people who are in areas with high or substantial COVID-19 transmission levels should wear masks in indoor public settings, the CDC said.

Substantial COVID-19 transmission is when between 50 and 99.99 new cases per 100,000 people have been reported over the past seven days. High transmission is when 100 or more new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people have been reported over the past seven days.

What does high COVID transmission mean? Map shows you areas where CDC recommends masks

Is it a HIPAA violation to ask someone about COVID-19 vaccine status?

As the U.S. faces the threat of the delta coronavirus variant, people are being asked to reveal whether they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 — leading many to question what that means for medical privacy.

Some patient information is required to be protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a 1996 rule that is designed for businesses in the medical field.

For that reason, many legal experts say someone asking about your vaccination status typically doesn’t violate HIPAA. Instead, it’s a personal choice to reveal if you’ve gotten your shot.

Is it a HIPAA violation to ask someone about their COVID vaccine status? What to know

Face masks for all K-12 students, staff recommended for next school year

School-age students and staff heading back to class this fall should wear masks — even if they’ve been vaccinated — according to the latest guidance from the CDC.

In its updated recommendations, the public health agency moved to reinstate mask protocols for the upcoming school year — reversing course on previous recommendations that said students, faculty and staff vaccinated against COVID-19 could forego face masks while indoors.

The new guidance apply to all K-12 students, staff, faculty and visitors. Those who still haven’t gotten the vaccine, including children older than 2, should also continue masking up, according to the CDC.

Face masks for all K-12 students, staff recommended for upcoming school year, CDC says

Fully vaccinated people should now get tested if exposed to COVID-19

Fully vaccinated people who are exposed to COVID-19 should get tested three to five days after and take additional precautions, new recommendations from the CDC say.

The new guidance was released in response to new data that show the highly contagious delta variant behaves differently than other strains of COVID and that in “rare occasions” some vaccinated people may be able to spread it to others.

Here’s what to know.

You’re vaccinated but exposed to COVID. What do new CDC guidelines say about testing?

Medical groups support COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health workers

Doctors, nurses and other health care workers are calling for hospitals and long-term care facilities to make a COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for employees as the delta variant continues to spread and vaccination rates lag.

More than 50 professional societies and organizations signed a statement urging health care and long-term care employers to require workers to get a vaccine, calling it the “logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment“ those who work in health care make to keep patients safe.

The groups include the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association and American Academy of Pediatrics.

COVID vaccine mandate for health workers? Over 50 major medical groups support idea

Unvaccinated snow leopard tests positive for COVID-19, San Diego Zoo says

A snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo tested positive for COVID-19, keepers say.

Fecal samples from the leopard tested positive for the coronavirus at the zoo and a California laboratory. U.S. Department of Agriculture test results are pending.

Keepers had noticed that the male snow leopard had a cough and runny nose, officials said. Veterinarians monitoring the animal say it is doing well.

Snow leopard tests positive for COVID, San Diego Zoo says. He’s unvaccinated

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