President Joe Biden said the announcement showed that America needs to “do better” on vaccinations, adding that a mandate for the country’s more than two million federal workers was now “under consideration.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky relayed the mask decision in a press call, citing new data that shows that while vaccines remain highly effective, rare breakthrough cases involving Delta have an increased risk of onward transmission.
“In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings,” she said.
According to the latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data, much of the southern United States is experiencing high or substantial transmission, while highly vaccinated parts of the Northeast are mostly experiencing moderate rates of community transmission.
Substantial is defined as being between 50 to 100 daily cases per 100,000 people over a seven day average, while high is defined as more than 100 daily cases per 100,000.
As recently as last week, the CDC defended its May decision that vaccinated people do not have to wear masks indoors in most circumstances, with exceptions including public transit and hospitals.
But infection numbers are now swelling, thanks to the Delta variant, which accounts for around 90 percent of cases.
The latest seven day average of daily cases is more than 56,000, similar to levels last seen in April.
Forty-nine percent of the US population is fully vaccinated, but the vaccination rate is heavily skewed between politically liberal and conservative parts of the country.
According to a recent paper in the journal Virological, the amount of virus found in the first tests of patients with the Delta variant was 1,000 times higher than patients in the first wave of the virus in 2020, greatly increasing its contagiousness.
Last month, Israel reinstituted mask mandates, just 10 days after lifting them, due to the Delta variant, and local US jurisdictions, including Los Angeles County, have taken similar steps.
– THE HINDUSTAN TIMES