The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that vaccinated Americans wear masks indoors in certain circumstances, citing the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus.
The new guidance reverses the CDC’s May 13 recommendation that vaccinated people did not have to wear masks indoors or outside because of the protection afforded by coronavirus vaccines.
The agency is recommending that vaccinated people who live in areas with substantial and high transmission rates wear masks in indoor public spaces to help prevent viral spread, according to three people familiar with the guidance.
The CDC is also advising that vaccinated people wear masks indoors in public spaces if there are vulnerable people in their households, including young children and those who are immunocompromised.
In addition, the agency is urging universal masking for all teachers, staff members and students in schools, regardless of vaccination status.
New data shows that vaccinated people infected with the delta variant carry the same viral load as unvaccinated individuals who are infected.
Vaccinated people are unlikely to become severely ill, but the new data raises questions about how easily they can transmit the disease, which was not believed to be the case in any significant way with earlier variants.
President Biden and CDC director Rochelle Walensky have repeatedly described the recent case surge as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” because unvaccinated people make up the vast majority of patients hospitalized with the disease.
The fact that vaccines ward off illness doesn’t mean those protected people are unable to spread the disease.
Confirmed coronavirus infections nationwide have quadrupled in July, from about 13,000 cases per day at the start of the month to more than 54,000 now.
The longer it takes to get everyone vaccinated, the greater the chance of the coronavirus mutations getting more difficult to prevent or becoming more deadly and achieving higher levels of transmission.