The CDC Guidelines are Changing Again to Protect Americans
The delta variant is spreading at a rapid pace and causing COVID-19 cases to soar, leading the mask mandate to make a comeback.
- By Shereen Hashem
- Jul 29, 2021
It’s just as we thought things were turning up again after the long haul of the pandemic and lingering mask mandates across the country were finally being lifted. Now, it seems to be starting all over again. The CDC initially gave the thumbs up for vaccinated Americans to take off their masks. However, the highly contagious delta variant is turning the rules around.
Tuesday, the CDC recommended that fully vaccinated Americans in locations with “substantial or high transmission” of COVID-19 should return to wearing masks indoors. Going back to square one, the CDC also says masks should be required for everyone inside K-12 schools while remaining to full-time, in-person classes “with proper prevention strategies” in place. The agency also recommends that vaccinated people wear a mask if someone in their household is unable to be protected by the vaccine, including those with compromised immune systems or children who are too young to get the shot.
The new guidance comes as local and state health officials returned to wearing masks indoors, with cases of the virus rapidly increasing among unvaccinated Americans. According to the CDC, 63 percent of U.S. counties currently have a “high” or “substantial” spread of the virus. The Biden administration’s mask mandate isn’t binding outside of planes, buses and other forms of public transportation. The CDC’s guidance is also not binding on most local officials from levying their own mask mandates. Some states also banned local officials from levying their own mask mandates. However, the agency reversing its policies will most likely influence schools to revise their rules as the country is seeing outbreaks of COVID-19.
"I really do believe that masking right now, especially for those unvaccinated, is a temporary measure. What we really need to do to drive down these transmissions, in the areas of high transmission, is to get more and more people vaccinated, and in the meantime to use masks," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Appointed CDC Director, said.
The NSC also continues to support the CDC’s guidelines and suggestions about keeping people safe and for employers to prioritize their workers to get vaccinated. This goal may be supported through incentives, mandates and information sharing. According to an article from the NSC, it previously shared guidelines to encourage people in the workplace to get the vaccine by including paid time off for immunization and recovery, on-site vaccination clinics, help with scheduling and transportation and support for promotional efforts. The CDC recommendation will result in masks being required in the White House, beginning Wednesday.
Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.