CDC: Masking policies up to states amid delta variant spread

The CDC director said its guidance for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, which says  masks are not required in most indoor settings, has not changed amid renewed attention to mask-wearing fueled by the delta variant. 

"If you are vaccinated, you are safe from the variants that are circulating here in the United States," Rochelle Walensky, MD, CDC director said during a June 30 interview on NBC's Today, adding that it was "exactly right" that vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most settings. 

This comes amid public confusion sparked by comments made by World Health Organization officials during a June 25 news conference, where WHO officials urged fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks and taking other pandemic safety precautions as the highly transmissible delta strain, first detected in India, continues to spread around the world. 

Dr. Walensky clarified CDC guidance for fully vaccinated people has not changed, and that WHO guidance is based on the global situation. 

"We know that the WHO has to make guidelines and provide information to the world," Dr. Walensky said. "Right now, we know as we look across the globe that less than 15 percent of people around the world have been vaccinated, and many of those people have really only received one dose of a two-dose vaccine. There are places around the world that are surging, and so as the WHO makes those recommendations, they do so in that context."

About 46 percent of the U.S. population had been fully vaccinated as of June 29, while about 66 percent of adults had received at least one dose.

However, "there are areas of this country where about a third of people are vaccinated, they have low vaccination rates," Dr. Walensky said. "There are areas where they have more disease in the context of people not being vaccinated. So, in those areas, we've always said, please look, make suggestions."

In Los Angeles County, where the delta variant accounted for nearly half of all variants sequenced for the week ending June 12, health officials are urging all residents, regardless of vaccination status, to revisit mask-wearing in indoor public spaces. 

Dr. Walensky said the CDC has "always said that local policy makers need to make policies for their local environment," indiating mask policies in the U.S. will continue to be left up to state and local health officials. 


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