Even for Fully Vaccinated, Masks are Back and Delta Variant Appears the Culprit

With new mask guidance comes questions and confusion, especially with the new strain of COVID-19 and those who have been vaccinated.

Earlier this week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided new recommendations for people to begin wearing masks again—depending on where people lived—and even in those fully vaccinated.

The federal agency’s new recommendations specifically asked vaccinated people to wear masks again when indoors in public settings in parts of the US with “substantial” to “high” transmission. The CDC has created a monitor on its site to help the public determine the level of transmission in the county they live in.

The CDC also reversed its recommendations on mask wearing in schools, stating that all teachers, administrators, staff, students, and visitors should wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status.

"In recent days I have seen new scientific data from recent outbreak investigations showing that that Delta variant behaves uniquely differently from past strains of the virus that cause Covid-19," CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky, MD, said. "This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations."

This recommendation has led to confusion and possibly a bit of a shrug from the public especially in people who are vaccinated, not understanding what the “new science” was.

The belief had been that people who are vaccinated are protected and not in danger to themselves or others, and at least initially when the CDC mask guidance was lifted back in May, collectively we thought we had turned a corner for the better. 

In an email discussion with the NY Times this week, Walensky said new research showed that vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant carry tremendous amounts of the virus in the nose and throat.

This is a departure from the previous variants where it was believed that vaccinated people would not transmit the virus. Suddenly, this has become something everyone, not just the unvaccinated, are having to confront.

The CDC is expected to release the data today about the new variant, and outbreaks among the vaccinated. However, as this information has not been published, it has led to not fully understanding why the sudden change on masks again.

If communication is key to helping the public and the medical community understanding where the new guidance comes from, then a transparent accounting with the data being shared to decipher why the new recommendations are being made.