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People who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 yet still get infected with the delta strain could transmit the infection to unvaccinated people, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday in justifying renewed recommendations for mask-wearing.
“In rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others,” she told reporters on Tuesday. “This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations.”
Previous recommendations from the agency were based on COVID-19 monitoring data that indicated vaccinated people rarely transmit the virus to others. The delta variant, however, is believed to be about twice as transmissible as the original strain of COVID-19, typically referred to as the “wild type” strain, and is sweeping through largely unvaccinated clusters of people and threatening to overwhelm hospital systems.
“The delta variant is showing us every day its willingness to outsmart us and to be an opportunist in areas where we have not shown a fortified response against it,” Walensky said.
She added that while fully vaccinated people can transmit the virus, those instances are rare.
The Biden administration’s guidance reversal reflects a growing sense of frustration over the country’s lagging vaccination rates, resulting in some states and cities, such as California and New York City, setting vaccination mandates for certain sectors of the population. While the Biden administration reiterated Tuesday that it will not issue any such mandate, the Department of Veterans Affairs, a federal agency, will require all of its healthcare workers to get vaccinated.
The CDC tracks breakthrough infections leading to hospitalizations and deaths, but the tallies do not reflect new, more mild infections less likely to merit hospitalization. This means that the actual number of breakthrough cases in the U.S. is likely higher than the CDC’s count.
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Original Author: Cassidy Morrison