The U.S. government’s leading health officials are actively considering recommending that even those individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 wear face masks in public settings again, as the highly transmissible delta variant continues to spread, Dr. Anthony Fauci has confirmed.
Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that he has taken part in conversations about altering the mask guidelines, as the Associated Press reported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surprised some when it said on May 13 that vaccinated people no longer need to wear face masks, observe physical distancing, avoid crowds, or get tested or isolate after an exposure, with few exceptions. The move was criticized by experts who argued it didn’t allow for the potential for breakthrough infections or transmission by fully vaccinated people, and may have undermined efforts to persuade unvaccinated people to get their shots.
The nation’s largest union for registered nurses, National Nurses United, in a letter on July 12 to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the CDC, urged the agency to revive the masking mandate to help protect essential workers. The letter came as the highly transmissible delta variant of COVID was spreading fast across the U.S., especially in states with low vaccination rates.
Fauci noted on Sunday that some local communities where transmission remains high have already called on their residents to mask up, including Los Angeles Country. Fauci said he was “very frustrated” at the “unnecessary predicament” the U.S. finds itself in with delta as many Americans are refusing vaccination. “We’re going in the wrong direction,” he said.
The CDC’s vaccine tracker is showing that 49.1% of the overall U.S. population is fully vaccinated, a number that is barely budging from day to day. That means people have had two doses of the vaccines developed by Pfizer
with German partner BioNTech or Moderna, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine. The AstraZeneca vaccine that has been widely used in the U.K. and elsewhere has not received emergency-use authorization in the U.S.
Among adults 18 and over, 60% are fully vaccinated, while 69% have received at least one shot, still a squeak short of Biden’s goal of having at least 70% of adults receive at least one shot by the July 4 holiday.
A group of more than 50 healthcare organizations — including the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association — issued a joint statement Monday, calling for all healthcare employers to mandate employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all healthcare workers to put patients as well as residents of long-term-care facilities first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and well-being,” said the letter.
Elsewhere, China recorded 76 new COVID cases on Sunday, its most in any day since January, Reuters reported. The latest cases are being driven by an outbreak in the eastern city of Nanjing, where a new round of mass testing has been launched.
In Vietnam, more than 10 million residents of the main economic hub, Ho Chi Minh City, are subject to a curfew starting Monday, AFP reported. The city has counted more than 62,000 new cases since April, accounting for the bulk of Vietnam’s overall total of 101,000 cases.
France’s parliament approved a law requiring special virus passes for all restaurants and domestic travel and mandating vaccinations for all health workers, the AP reported.
Both measures have prompted protests, but President Emmanuel Macron and his government say they are needed to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals as infections rebound and to avoid new lockdowns.
Ireland is allowing restaurants, cafés and pubs to reopen with indoor service, but is limiting access to adults who are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID, and children, the Irish Times reported. Ireland’s lockdown was so strict that some establishments have been closed for almost 500 days.
In the U.K., there are concerns about the number of police officers who have been forced into isolation over their contacts with COVID patients, the Guardian reported. The number of absent metropolitan police officers has reached almost one in five.
The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness climbed above 194.3 million on Monday, while the death toll climbed above 4.16 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world with a total of 34.4 million cases and in deaths with 610,892.
India is second by cases at 31.4 million and third by deaths at 420,967, according to its official numbers, which are believed to be undercounted.
Brazil is second in deaths at 549,924 but is third in cases at 19.7 million.
Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 238,424 but has recorded just 2.7 million cases, according to its official numbers.
In Europe, Russia continues to pull ahead of the U.K. by deaths at 151,352, while the U.K. has 129,446, making Russia the country with the fifth highest death toll in the world and the highest in Europe.
China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 104,642 confirmed cases and 4,848 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.