CDC recommends mask indoors for vaccinated people in some regions

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a highly anticipated announcement Tuesday afternoon that fully vaccinated Americans wear masks “in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission” of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The agency cited the Delta variant as its main reason for changing the guidelines, noting the variant is more than two times as transmissible as the original strains, which, coupled with dwindling vaccination rates, could lead to larger, more rapid increases in infections if not addressed.

Until vaccination coverage is high and community transmission is low, the CDC said public health practitioners, as well as schools, businesses, and institutions need to regularly assess the need for prevention strategies to avoid stressing healthcare capacity and imperiling adequate care for both COVID-19 and other non-COVID-19 conditions.

CDC representatives said the agency recommends all unvaccinated persons wear masks in public indoor settings, and fully vaccinated persons wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. Additionally, fully vaccinated persons might consider wearing a mask in public indoor settings, regardless of transmission level, if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised or is at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in their household is unvaccinated.

During the announcement, the agency said masks should be required by students and staff members of K-12 schools, though they encouraged the return to fulltime, in-person classes with prevention strategies in place.

Although increasing COVID-19 vaccination coverage remains the most effective means to achieve control of the pandemic, the agency said additional layered prevention strategies are needed in the short-term to minimize preventable morbidity and mortality.  

Editor's note: Click here for more information and ongoing COVID-19 updates for integrative healthcare professionals.