The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has once again changed its mind about mask-wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to breakthrough infections caused by the delta variant of COVID-19 in vaccinated people, the CDC is now recommending that vaccinated people start masking up when indoors in public settings in areas of the U.S. with “high or substantial transmission” rates.
The reversal comes after the government health body said in May that vaccinated people no longer needed to mask up. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the CDC, explained the change Wednesday, saying that “vaccinated breakthrough infections, rare as they might be, have the potential to infect others.”
Wondering whether you live in an area where you should probably mask up indoors? You can check this map, which the CDC updates daily at 8 p.m. Eastern, to see if your county falls within the “high or substantial” rate of transmission.
Most large metropolitan areas — including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, Miami and San Diego — fall into the “high” transmission category, as does nearly the entire American South. More than 63% of U.S. counties are at high or substantial transmission.
The highly contagious delta variant is spreading quickly across the U.S., especially in areas with high amounts of unvaccinated people. The variant is now present in at least 132 countries.
The CDC is a bit late to the game when it comes to updating mask guidance. Los Angeles County reinstated its mask mandate on July 17. Even earlier than that, the World Health Organization urged vaccinated people to keep wearing masks at the end of June.
The updated CDC guidance also recommends “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.” The American Academy of Pediatrics was already calling for everyone 2 years old and up to wear masks in schools, regardless of their vaccination status, last week.