CDC Recommends Masks for Vaccinated People When Indoors

The agency’s recommendations encompass everyone in areas with “substantial” and “high” transmission rates.

July 28, 2021

Person holding a mask

ATLANTA – On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors if in localities experiencing “substantial” or “high” rates of COVID-19 transmission, CNN reports. This updated guidance comes as the Delta variant of the coronavirus gains a foothold in the United States.

“In recent days I have seen new scientific data from recent outbreak investigations showing that the Delta variant behaves uniquely differently from past strains of the virus that cause COVID-19,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations.”

The new, unpublished data shows that vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant can carry as much of the virus as unvaccinated people. However, the CDC emphasized that vaccinated people still have a small transmission role and breakthrough infections continue to be rare.

When the agency revised its mask guidance on May 13 for vaccinated people, only 1% of reported infection were of the Delta variant. Today, that number has jumped to at least 83%. Most of the transmission is occurring where vaccination levels are low (below 40% of the population).

The CDC guidelines for the unvaccinated remain the same—mask until fully vaccinated. “Vaccinated individuals continue to represent a very small amount of transmission occurring around the country. We continue to estimate that the risk of a breakthrough infection with symptom upon exposure to the Delta variant is reduced by seven-fold. The reduction of 20-fold for hospitalizations and deaths,” Walensky said. “In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public, indoor settings, to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant and protect others—this includes schools.”

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