The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Tuesday that fully vaccinated people wear masks again indoors in locations with high Covid-19 transmission rates. The agency also recommends children wear masks in schools in the fall.
Federal health officials still believe that fully vaccinated individuals represent a very low level of transmission, according to those familiar with the matter. Still, some people vaccinated could carry higher amounts of the virus than previously thought and potentially pass it on to others, they said.
“As you’ve heard from me, this pandemic continues to pose a serious threat to the health of all Americans,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky told reporters on a call. “Today we have new science related to the Delta area that requires us to update the guidelines on what to do when you are fully vaccinated.”
The updated guidelines come before the fall season, when the highly contagious Delta variant is expected to lead to a further surge in new coronavirus cases and many large employers plan to bring workers back to the office. In mid-May, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people would not need to wear masks in most environments, whether indoors or outdoors.
Continue reading: Americans will need masks indoors as the US is heading for a “dangerous fall” with a surge in Delta Covid cases
Health experts fear that Delta, already the predominant form of the disease in the United States, is hitting states with low vaccination rates. These states are now being forced to reintroduce mask rules, capacity limits and other public health measures that they have largely withdrawn in recent months.
The Senior Medical Advisor to the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that the CDC was considering revising mask guidelines for vaccinated Americans, saying it was “in active consideration.”
“It’s a dynamic situation. It’s in the works, it’s developing like so many other areas of the pandemic, ”Fauci, also director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, told CNN. “You need to look at the data.”
The CDC’s guidelines are just a recommendation, leaving it up to state and local officials to reintroduce their masking rules for specific individuals. But even before the CDC’s expected guidelines on Tuesday, some regions reintroduced mask mandates and notices as Covid cases increased again.
Several counties in California and Nevada are now advising all residents to wear masks in public indoor spaces, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not. In Massachusetts, Provincetown officials advised everyone to return to wearing masks indoors after the July 4 celebrations resulted in an outbreak of new cases.
Experts say Covid prevention strategies are still critical to keeping people safe from the virus, especially in areas with medium to high transmission rates in the community.
Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician and vaccine advocate who served on advisory boards for both the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC earlier this month that the US is still “undervaccinated” and about half the population is not fully vaccinated be .
Even people who are fully protected have cause for concern when it comes to variants of Covid, Offit said. While the vaccines are good at protecting against serious illness and death, they may not protect as well against minor illness or the spread of Covid to others, he said. No vaccine is 100% effective, he noted.
“It is not a bold prediction to believe that SARS-CoV-2 will be circulating in two or three years. I mean, there are 195 countries out there, most of which haven’t received a single dose of vaccine. ”“ Offit said. “Will it still be circulating in the United States? I think that would be very, very likely.”
Israel released preliminary data last week showing that the Pfizer vaccine was only 39% effective against the virus there, which officials attributed to the rapidly spreading Delta variant. Its effectiveness against serious illness and death remained high, the data showed. US and global health officials said they were looking at Israeli research, which was non-peer-reviewed and had few details.
Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson executives have stated that they expect Americans to need booster vaccinations, and Pfizer has announced that it will be asking the FDA to approve booster vaccinations as it sees signs of waning immunity. Federal health officials say booster doses of the vaccines are not currently required for otherwise healthy people, although they may recommend it for the elderly or those with compromised immunity.
– CNBC’s Meg Tirrell and The Associated Press contributed to this report.