- The CDC now recommends masks again, even for vaccinated people, in some indoor settings.
- But at least six major US cities have already issued similar recommendations.
- Los Angeles and St. Louis both require all people to wear masks indoors.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on Tuesday that vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings – a change from the previous guidelines, which suggested vaccinated people didn’t need masks. The new rules apply to areas of the country with high rates of coronavirus transmission, as well as K-12 schools, the CDC said.
Some vaccinated Americans, though, have already been told to mask up again.
Amid a rise in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant, at least six cities have issued new mask guidance in the last few weeks. Los Angeles and St. Louis have instated official mask mandates for all residents, while New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle have recommended masks.
Some cities have also reissued mask mandates for specific indoor settings. Clark County, Nevada – which includes Las Vegas – began requiring masks in court facilities last week. Public schools in Atlanta, Chicago, and New York City will require students and staff to wear masks this school year, regardless of their vaccination status. And in Hawaii, the government is waiting until more residents are vaccinated before lifting its indoor mask mandate.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Fox News that these local mask requirements are “quite understandable” given Delta’s prevalence in the US.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on Tuesday that vaccinated people infected with Delta may be contagious and spread the virus to others. Data on previous variants indicated that vaccinated people were less likely to transmit the virus than unvaccinated people.
At least 6 cities have issued new mask guidance
The San Francisco Bay Area was among the first places to buck the no-mask trend in July. Several Bay Area counties, including San Francisco County, began recommending masks for all people – vaccinated or not – in indoor spaces like theaters, grocery stores, and retail stores starting July 16. In nearby San Mateo County, masks are now required, even for fully vaccinated people, inside county offices, clinics, and public facilities.
Los Angeles County also reinstated its indoor mask mandate on July 18 following a sharp uptick in cases. Average daily cases more than doubled there in the first two weeks of July, then tripled by the third week.
In New Orleans, health officials issued a “mask advisory” instead of a mandate. The city’s “inadequate vaccination rate” was part of the reason for that rule, they said. New Orleans has the second-highest vaccination rate in Louisiana – around 57% of residents have received at least one dose – but cases have still increased 10-fold there since the start of July.
On Thursday, Philadelphia also “strongly recommended” that all residents wear masks inside public places. James Garrow, a spokesperson for the city’s health department, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that officials were concerned about an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations among the city’s unvaccinated children.
King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, followed suit with a similar recommendation on Friday. Health officials now advise that all residents ages 5 and up wear masks in indoor public settings – despite the fact that King County is one of the most vaccinated counties in the US. (Around 72% of residents have received at least one dose.)
“This extra layer of protection will help us all stay safer, including those who are unvaccinated, such as the 300,000 children in King County who aren’t able to get vaccinated yet, and the many thousands of people who have immune systems that are weakened or suppressed,” the county said in a statement.
St. Louis County, Missouri, took a firmer stance on Monday by requiring vaccinated people ages 5 and older wear masks on public transportation and in all indoor public spaces. The mandate doesn’t apply to people eating or drinking in restaurants or bars, though.