DETROIT – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reversed course Tuesday on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.
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The CDC is recommending people who live in areas experiencing “high” (red on the map) or “substantial” (orange) COVID-19 spread wear masks in indoor places, regardless of vaccination status. About 63% of U.S. counties fall into this category as of July 27, according to the CDC’s data tracker, mostly in southern states. The entire state of Florida is in the “high” risk category.
In Michigan, only a handful of counties fall into the higher risk categories, but none of them are in Southeast Michigan. The counties in “substantial” include Cass, Van Buren, Hillsdale, Mason, Kalkaska, Alpena, Iron and Gogebic counties. Branch and Dickinson counties are in the “high” risk category.
Most of the state falls into the “moderate” spread category, with about 27% of the U.S. as a whole. COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in Michigan for the last two weeks, with the 7-day case average tripling since July 1.
Michigan COVID: Here’s what to know July 31, 2021
The CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
Most new infections in the U.S. continue to be among unvaccinated people. But “breakthrough” infections, which generally cause milder illness, can occur in vaccinated people. When earlier strains of the virus predominated, infected vaccinated people were found to have low levels of virus and were deemed unlikely to spread the virus much, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.
But with the delta variant, the level of virus in infected vaccinated people is “indistinguishable” from the level of virus in the noses and throats of unvaccinated people, Walensky said.
The data emerged over the last couple of days from 100 samples. It is unpublished, and the CDC has not released it. But “it is concerning enough that we feel like we have to act,” Walensky said. Vaccinated people “have the potential to spread that virus to others,” she said.
As of July 27, Michigan has not revised any state level masking guidelines. The overall mask mandate was lifted in June. There are currently no restrictions on capacity in the state.