As Infections Rise, CDC Urges Some Vaccinated Americans to Wear

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday it is reviewing a decision made just two months ago. He said people vaccinated against the coronavirus should continue to wear masks in public indoors in parts of the country where the virus is spreading.

CDC officials also recommended universal masking for teachers, staff, students and visitors in schools, regardless of vaccination status and community transmission of the virus. Schools should return to face-to-face education in the fall, with additional measures, according to institution officials.

The recommendations are another sinister twist during America’s pandemic, a war-weary concession that the virus has outstripped vaccination efforts. The agency’s move follows its increasing reports of cases, as well as increasing cases in states like Florida and Missouri. breakthrough infections Delta variant more contagious among fully vaccinated people.

CDC director Dr. “The Delta variant shows its willingness to beat us every day,” Rochelle Walensky said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Data from several states and other countries show that the variant behaves differently from previous versions of the coronavirus, adding: “This new science is alarming and sadly brings an update to our recommendation.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a news conference on Tuesday that changing the guidelines is crucial to “fighting an ever-evolving virus,” and the Biden administration supports the effort.

“Their job is to look at the evolving information, the evolving data, the evolving historical epidemic, and guide the American people,” said Ms. Psaki.

The Biden administration’s senior pandemic advisor, Dr. “The virus is changing, we are facing a dynamic situation,” said Anthony S. Fauci. The CDC is right to reconsider its recommendations as the virus evolves, he said.

“I don’t think you can say it’s just a back and forth commute,” he added. “They’re dealing with new information that science provides.”

Vaccines remain highly effective against the worst consequences of infection with any type of coronavirus, including hospitalization and death. But the new guidelines clearly apply to both unvaccinated and vaccinated people, departing sharply from the agency’s position since May that most vaccinated people have not required to wear masks indoors.

These recommendations, which seemed to signal the end of the pandemic, were based on previous data suggesting that vaccinated people are rarely infected and almost never infected, making masking unnecessary.

But that was before the arrival of the Delta variant, which now accounts for the bulk of infections in the United States. CDC officials are convinced by new scientific evidence that even vaccinated people can become infected and carry the virus in large quantities, Dr. Walensky agreed at the news briefing.

Some public health experts welcomed the agency’s decision to revise its guidelines. An infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City, Dr. “This is a move in the right direction,” said Celine Gounder, based on what scientists have learned about the Delta variant’s ability to cause breakthrough infections.

Two leading teachers’ unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, strongly endorsed the CDC’s universal masking movement in schools.

“Masking in schools, regardless of vaccination status, is essential as an important way to deal with the changing realities of virus transmission,” said Randi Weingarten, AFT President. and more Americans over the age of 12 are getting vaccinated.”

Whether state and local health officials are willing to follow the agency’s guidance is far from certain. And there is sure to be resistance from Americans fed up with the pandemic, especially in parts of the country where vaccination rates are low and concerns about the virus have subsided.

Los Angeles County and St. Louis County, Mo. Some jurisdictions have already reinstated mask duties in response to increasing cases. But Arkansas, one of the states with the highest numbers, maintained its ban on mask requirement even as vaccination rates fell.

As recently as last week, a CDC spokesperson said the agency has no plans to change its guidance unless there is a significant change in science. Researchers have begun to uncover disturbing new data.

The delta variant is thought to be about twice as contagious as the original version of the virus. Some studies now show that people infected with the variant about a thousand times more viruses more than those infected with other variants and may remain infected longer.

CDC officials were impressed by new research showing that even vaccinated people can carry large amounts of variant viruses in the nose and throat, according to three federal officials familiar with the matter.

Large viral loads, particularly in the nose and throat, may help explain the breakthrough reports of infections in groups of vaccinated people. For example, an outbreak that began in Provincetown, Mass. after the 4th of July festivities has grown to include at least 765 cases, according to Steve Katsurinis, chairman of the Provincetown Board of Health.

Mr Katsurinis said 74 percent of the 469 cases reported among Massachusetts residents were in people who were fully vaccinated.

Smaller cases of infection have been reported after weddings, family gatherings and dinner parties. Some of those infected had symptoms, but the vast majority were not seriously ill, suggesting that the immunity produced by the vaccines quickly curbed the virus.

Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, said vaccines are “not a force field.” Instead, the vaccine trains the immune system to recognize virus-infected cells.

“The term breakthrough infection is probably a bit misleading,” he said. “It’s probably more realistic if we talk about breakthrough diseases and how much of that is occurring.”

On Tuesday, Dr. Walensky urged people to get vaccinated, noting that the increase in cases and hospitalizations is greatest in areas with low vaccination rates and among unvaccinated people.

He acknowledged that some vaccinated people could be infected with the Delta variant and be contagious, but argued that this was a rare event. But the CDC only tracks breakthrough infections that lead to hospitalization or death among vaccinated Americans. Authorities had previously said that vaccinated people accounted for only 3 percent of hospitalizations.

Dr. Gounder and other experts said it’s unclear how often vaccinated people transmit the virus to others, but it may be more common than scientists had anticipated, as the original spread of the virus.

At Brigham, infectious disease physician and epidemiologist Dr. “We’ve seen an increasing number of breakthrough infections, and most of them seem to be happening where people are exposed to a lot of Covid,” said Scott Dryden-Peterson. & Women’s Hospital in Boston, reviewing breakthrough infections in Massachusetts.

Vaccinated people, especially those with compromised immune systems or at high risk, should consider wearing masks even in areas with low transmission: “Masks can effectively reduce the amount of virus we breathe in and prevent us from getting sick, and so they increase the effectiveness of our vaccine. Almost everywhere in the US, that’s good.” an idea.”

Infections are rising rapidly in the United States, with an average of more than 56,000 cases per day on Tuesday, more than four times the number four weeks ago. Hospitalizations are also increasing in nearly all states, with deaths rising to an average of 275 per day.

A doctor working with the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA, Dr. “Given what we’ve seen, this is definitely needed to slow down and block transmission,” said Robby Sikka of the new masking guidance.

“Not everyone with a breakthrough infection will be at risk of transmission, but it is imperative to note that there is a risk of transmission,” he said.

However, Dr. Relying on states or territories to set masking rules would require more testing than currently being done to identify people with mild or asymptomatic infections, Sikka noted. “This is something we’re probably not entirely ready to do,” he said.

Dr. Nuzzo said federal officials should reveal an even clearer plan for long-term masking, given that the virus seems likely to become endemic and permanently entrenched in American life.

“The question is, what are the off-ramps for masking? It’s really important for us to define that,” he said. “If we want to keep asking people to step up, we need to give them a vision of what we’re working on.”

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