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COVID-19 cases in the US near 50,000 a day - the highest since May as CDC reportedly considers stricter mask rules

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The US has reported an average of nearly 50,000 COVID-19 cases each day this week. Paul Chinn/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
  • Over the past week, the US reported an average of nearly 50,000 new COVID-19 infections each day, according to CDC data.

  • The highest number of new cases was reported Friday - with more than 81,000 new cases reported.

  • That puts the US in a situation not seen since the spring as US officials reportedly reconsider mask guidance.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Over the past week, the US has reported an average of nearly 50,000 COVID-19 cases each day, according to data analyzed by The New York Times, putting the number of average daily infections at the highest number since the beginning May.

There were more than 81,000 new cases of the disease reported in the US on Friday, according to the NYT data, which is aggregated from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from state governments. That's the highest number of new cases diagnosed in the US in a single day since February 13 when more than 84,000 cases were diagnosed, according to the data.

The rise in new infections come amid the spread of the more contagious delta variant of the disease. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky previously called the uptick in cases a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."

While breakthrough infections - cases where vaccinated people test positive for the disease - can occur, the vaccines are effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalizations, and death, according to the CDC.

The rise in cases has reopened the debate on the wearing of face masks in public settings. The CDC in May updated its guidance on masks, saying face coverings weren't necessary for fully vaccinated people in most settings. It still advises that unvaccinated people wear them, especially when indoors.

States and businesses in the US followed suit, ditching the mask requirement for vaccinated individuals.

But some areas are now taking a more cautious approach, once again encouraging all people, regardless of vaccination status, to mask up in public. Officials in Los Angeles County in California reinstated their mask mandate earlier in July, calling the effort to stop rising case numbers an "all-hands-on-deck moment."

Officials in St. Louis plan to reinstate their mask mandate on Monday, according to Fox 2.

The American Academy of Pediatrics earlier this week recommended that all students and staff at schools wear a mask even if they're vaccinated against the disease when they return to classrooms. President Joe Biden on Wednesday said the CDC would likely recommend that unvaccinated children wear masks in the fall.

The Biden administration and the CDC are considering reintroducing stricter mask guidance, the Washington Post reported this week, in order to protect unvaccinated people, who make up the majority of hospitalizations and deaths from the disease.

According to CDC data, about 49% of the US population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Slightly more - about 57% - of the US population is partially vaccinated against the disease. Nearly 80% of the US population aged 65 or older is fully vaccinated, which is the highest of any age demographic, per the CDC.

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