A top U.S. health agency on Tuesday altered its COVID-19-related guidance once again, telling people to wear masks in some areas even if they are fully vaccinated against the virus that causes the disease.
New research into outbreaks from several states and other countries “indicate that on rare occasions some vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others.” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told reporters on a call.
The research indicates that vaccinated people who contract the Delta variant have the same viral load, or amount of virus, as unvaccinated people, and that vaccinated people can transmit the variant.
“This new science is worrisome and warrants an update to our recommendations,” Walensky said.
The agency did not immediately respond when asked to provide citations to the research, and had updated its web page on masking guidance.
The CDC is now advising even vaccinated people in areas with “substantial and high transmission” of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19, to wear masks in public, indoor settings.
High means more than 100 cases per 100,000 people over a 7-day period while substantial means 50-100 per 100,000 over a 7-day period.
Of the nation’s 3,219 counties, 2,043 are at high or substantial transmission, according to the CDC.
Vaccinated people masking will help prevent the spread of the Delta variant and protect others, according to Walensky. Eight out of 10 sequenced COVID-19 cases were the variant.
The indoor settings includes schools, even though children are at very low risk of contracting severe COVID-19. Only 517 youth 17 or younger have died with COVID-19 in the United States, according to the CDC.
The shift came about two-and-a-half months after CDC announced that fully vaccinated persons did not need to wear masks indoors because of the protection the vaccines provide. It also comes as evidence emerges indicating vaccines are not as effective as they once were against the CCP virus.
Fully vaccinated refers to people who have gotten two of the Pfizer or Moderna shots, or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
CDC’s guidance is not binding, but is followed closely by health departments and businesses across the nation and has been adopted by many of them throughout the pandemic.
Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases, told The Epoch Times that the updated guidance makes sense.
“The vaccines are excellent at keeping us out of the hospital. They’re not quite as good as preventing infection and if you’re going to get infection even though you’re vaccinated you could also transmit it to others. You’re less likely to do that, but nonetheless you could do it. And so I think this new guidance helps protect the people who are vaccinated and also contributes to a reduction in transmission to others,” he said.
Schaffner said he could not think of a reason the new guidance would not be a good idea.
But the announcement did draw pushback from some.
“This is not science. It’s politics. Vaccines work. If you’re vaccinated, you don’t need a damn mask. CDC has told us that!” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wrote on Twitter.
At her daily briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the change.
“The reality is we are dealing with a much different strain of this virus than we were even earlier in the spring back in May when the masking guidance was provided by the CDC at that time. That is their job. Their job is to look at evolving information, evolving data, an evolving historic pandemic, and provide guidance to the American public,” she told reporters in Washington, less than a month after President Joe Biden said the United States was “closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus.”