ATLANTA, Ga. (WTVO) — The nation’s top health agency revised its masking guidelines and recommend that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging, according to a federal official.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the announcement Tuesday.
The CDC says fully vaccinated people can still “shed” the virus or transmit the virus to others.
“The CDC recommends that community leaders encourage vaccination and masking to prevent further outbreaks in areas of substantial and high transmission,” the updated guidance said.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky cited new scientific data from a recent outbreak investigation, as well as data from other countries, to defend the agency’s decision to urge vaccinated people to return to wearing a mask in some parts of the country.
She says the data show the delta variant “behaves uniquely” from past strains of the virus.
The data indicates that on “rare occasions, some vaccinated people with the delta variant … may be contagious and spread the virus to others. This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations.”
The CDC is also recommending that all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.
For much of the pandemic, the CDC advised Americans to wear masks outdoors if they were within 6 feet of one another.
Then in April, as vaccination rates rose sharply, the agency eased its guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to cover their faces unless they were in a big crowd of strangers. In May, the CDC further eased its guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.
The guidance still called for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it cleared the way for reopening workplaces and other venues.
Subsequent CDC guidance said fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks at summer camps or at schools, either.
For months COVID cases, deaths and hospitalizations were falling steadily, but those trends began to change at the beginning of the summer as a mutated and more transmissible version of the coronavirus, the delta variant, began to spread widely, especially in areas with lower vaccination rates.
In recent weeks, a growing number of cities and towns have restored indoor masking rules. St. Louis, Savannah, Georgia, and Provincetown, Massachusetts, are among the places that reimposed mask mandates this month.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said he would review the latest guidance before considering any new executive orders for the state, which is currently in Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan.
Dr. Sandra Martell, of the Winnebago County Health Department, said, “Winnebago County Health Department continues to recommend that all individuals consider the risks of COVID-19 and take preventive measures to reduce the spread. This includes vaccination, masking, social distancing and hand washing. Take extra precautions when in settings in which there may be individuals who are unvaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown e.g. schools, public buildings, stores, entertainment venues.”
In northern Illinois, both Winnebago and Boone counties are listed as having a “substantial” level of community COVID-19 transmission on the CDC’s website. Carrol County is flagged as “high.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.