DETROIT – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reversed course last 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.
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 79% of U.S. counties fall into this category as of July 31, according to the CDC’s data tracker, mostly in southern states. The entire state of Florida is in the “high” risk category.
Last week, only 10 counties in Michigan fell into these two categories, but now -- nearly half of the state’s population is entering the CDC mask guideline range. As of July 31, 24 counties now fall into the “substantial” community spread category, including Oakland, Livingston, Macomb and Saginaw counties, and a handful are in the “high” category.
As of Aug. 2, 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.
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 It is unpublished, and the CDC has not released it.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.