SAN DIEGO (CNS) - After weeks of insisting fully vaccinated people could shed face coverings in most situations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed course Tuesday and recommended mask-wearing indoors for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in areas experiencing "high" or "substantial" COVID-19 transmission.
Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties are all currently listed by the CDC as having "high" transmission rates.
Los Angeles County implemented a mask-wearing mandate in indoor public settings for everyone earlier this month, citing spiking cases attributed to spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19. After Tuesday's announcement, San Diego County said it would recommend following the CDC's recommendation:
"The rate of COVID-19 cases in San Diego County is rated 'high' by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New research reveals the Delta variant is much more transmissible and expected to lead to a growing number of cases in vaccinated individuals while primarily striking the unvaccinated. The County of San Diego will follow the latest CDC guidance in recommending the universal wearing of masks by both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in indoor public settings. Masks are an added measure; vaccinations are critical for getting back to the things we love," a county statement read.
If you look at the CDC's 30-day community transmission time-lapse, San Diego County was in the "low" or "moderate" categories until July 14, when it jumped mostly to the "substantial" category. Since July 23, the County has stayed in the dark red, or "high" transmission category.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced the change Tuesday, saying the Delta variant "behaves uniquely different from past strains of the virus that cause COVID-19."
While the vaccines effectively stopped the spread of the original strain, scientists found that the Delta variant can spread even through vaccinated Americans.
"In rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others," Walensky said.
Walensky called rapid spread of the COVID variant "worrisome," and said its behavior "warrants an update to our recommendations."
The updated CDC recommendations include K-12 school settings, including teachers, staff, students, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. In the meantime, experts hope more people get their vaccinations.
"Nobody likes lockdown, so what are you going to do? We want our society to still keep functioning and go forward. Masks are the next thing to reach for," Dr. Christian Ramers Infectious Diseases expert at Family Health Centers of San Diego said.
Mask-wearing has remained a requirement indoors across California for unvaccinated people. However, enforcement of the requirement was based largely on the honor system, making it uncertain if unvaccinated residents were abiding by the rule.
RESOURCE: COVID-19 Integrated County View