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CDC: Vaccinated people in some areas need to wear masks

The health agency cites new evidence in reversing its guidance

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Photo (c) Luis Alvarez - Getty Images
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is changing its guidance on masks for people who are fully vaccinated. The agency said it now believes some vaccinated people should wear masks when in indoor public spaces like supermarkets.

The agency issued guidance in May that said fully vaccinated people did not need to mask up. The move caught many businesses off guard, but most quickly adopted that policy.

Just last week, the CDC said it had no plans to revise its guidance unless there was a significant change in the science. Federal health officials reportedly met over the weekend to review new evidence.

To be clear, the CDC is not recommending that all vaccinated wear masks indoors. In its revised guidance issued late Tuesday, it said vaccinated people should mask up when they are in “an area of high or substantial (virus) transmission.”

Masks required only in certain areas

To determine whether a particular state or county falls into that category, the CDC website offers this map. Users enter their local information and will be told their area is one of either low, moderate, substantial, or high transmission.

The CDC further suggests vaccinated people wear masks when interacting with children or vulnerable adults. It also recommends that children and teachers wear masks when they return to the classroom this fall.

“This pandemic continues to pose a serious threat to the health of all Americans,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters. “Today, we have new science related to the delta variant that requires us to update the guidance regarding what you can do when you are fully vaccinated.”

Cases on the rise

The change in guidance comes as cases of COVID-19 increase in most areas of the country, primarily caused by the Delta variant. 

Delta is much more contagious than the original strain of the virus and scientists now believe that a vaccinated person infected by Delta in a so-called “breakthrough” case may retain enough of the virus in their body to pass it on to an unvaccinated person.

Meanwhile, President Biden is reportedly giving “strong consideration” to requiring all federal employees to get vaccinated. NPR reports one option said to be under study is requiring federal workers to show proof of vaccination or to wear masks at all times.

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