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CDC Updates Mask Guidance

Center recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings
retail shopper wearing mask
Photograph: Shutterstock

ATLANTA — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) on July 27 updated its guidance for fully vaccinated people in light of new evidence that shows the Delta variant of COVID-19 is causing “breakthrough infections” in fully vaccinated people. Reversing its guidance from May, the CDC now recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission, including areas with large concentrations of unvaccinated people.

Since May, most states have backed off mask mandates.

Many convenience-store chains across the country, which had required all customers and employees to wear masks, lifted the requirement for vaccinated customers and employees. Nearly three-fourths of convenience-store retailers who responded to a CSP survey in late May said they lifted face mask requirements in their stores.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) issued a statement in response to the CDC recommendation that fully vaccinated people again wear masks indoors in COVID-19 hot spots.

“Public health and safety is always the No. 1 priority for retailers large and small," it said. "We want every business to remain open, we want to keep people employed and we want to ensure that consumers have access to the goods and services they expect and need. It is truly unfortunate that mask recommendations have returned when the surest known way to reduce the threat of the virus is widespread vaccination. The CDC’s latest guidance underscores the urgency for more Americans to become fully vaccinated so we can all emerge from this pandemic.”

The CDC, Atlanta, also said fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated.

People who are at increased risk for severe disease include older adults and those who have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, obesity and heart conditions.

The CDC said people who are immunocompromised should follow prevention measures, including wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others they don’t live with and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces, regardless of their vaccination status to protect themselves against COVID-19 until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.

Currently authorized vaccines in the United States are highly effective at protecting vaccinated people against symptomatic and severe COVID-19, said the CDC. Fully vaccinated people are less likely to become infected and, if infected, to develop symptoms of COVID-19. They are at substantially reduced risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 compared with unvaccinated people.

Breakthrough infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant, the CDC said, and when these infections occur among vaccinated people, they tend to be mild; however, preliminary evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people who do become infected with the Delta variant can be infectious and can spread the virus to others.

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