Renormalizing Masks: Experts Say Delta Variant Requires Protection Even For the Vaccinated

COVID isn’t over, not by far.

That’s the message science and medical experts are desperately trying to convey as Americans were just beginning to enjoy the freedoms that came along with their states finally reaching their vaccination thresholds. But with the continuing spread of the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus causing a 10% increase in new cases across the country, even vaccinated people are being encouraged to consider wearing their masks in public for the immediate future.

Hillstone employees told no masks allowed
[Image Credit: porkcheckoff Safety protection for the face via photopin (license)]
More than 156 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated, or about 55% of the population. But even though the Covid-19 vaccines are very effective against all the known coronavirus variants, including the highly transmissible delta variant that is spreading rapidly, some communities and physicians are urging a return to masking.

On Thursday, the St. Louis County and city public health departments issued a warning about the spread of the Delta variant and advised a return to masks indoors, even if vaccinated. Earlier in the week, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced it “strongly recommends” that everyone wear a mask indoors after an increase in cases.

But despite a slowdown in the rate of vaccinations and the recent uptick in Covid-19 cases in the U.S., there is no indication the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will once again recommend masks for fully vaccinated individuals for the country as a whole. “If you’re vaccinated, you have a very high degree of protection from all of the variants that we are aware of circulating in the United States,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

In areas with low vaccine uptake, a return to masks indoors, even for vaccinated people, may be appropriate, Walensky said. Currently, approximately 1,000 counties in the U.S. have vaccination coverage of less than 30 percent. Experts say perhaps it is time to re-normalize mask-wearing for the benefit of all.

No vaccine stops all transmission of a virus. While rare, it is possible that fully vaccinated people can become infected with Covid-19. A recent outbreak of Covid-19 cases associated with the Delta variant in Israel included many who had been fully vaccinated, for example. Those are called breakthrough infections, and they are typically mild.

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