Just as restrictions and attitudes were beginning to loosen up, a new COVID-19 shaped specimen threw a ginormous wrench in many plans. Its name? The Delta variant. On July 27, Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Center of Disease Control, announced in a conference that there will be new regulations regarding masks in all states. Officials recommend that everyone wear a mask in indoor settings, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not. These orders are especially crucial in areas with already high infection rates.
The Delta variant has complicated many situations, and recent studies have found that vaccines are no longer as effective as they were before. The evidence states that vaccinated individuals infected with the variant are just as contagious as unvaccinated individuals. Walensky and other officials advise the public to get vaccinated if not already, and to wear a mask when indoors once fully protected. As for those who are already vaccinated, it’s still important to wear a mask as it protects those around you as well as yourself. The variant’s consequences are showing in data across the country. Some locations display more than 300,000 infected people for every 100,000 in just a week’s time. The CDC sees this as an incredibly high transmission rate, and as schools approach the beginning of the academic year, all students are advised to wear masks.
Much of the general public is confused about the new mandate due to instructions in May that allowed vaccinated individuals to go out unmasked. However, those decisions were made before the delta variant, when people with only one dose of the vaccine had 40% less virus in their noses than those without. Walensky explains the details, “The delta variant behaves uniquely differently from past strains of the virus that causes COVID-19, [it’s] unlike the alpha variant we had back in May where we didn’t believe that if you were vaccinated you could transmit further.” This new news is worrisome and it is vital that citizens pay close attention to all announcements from the CDC.
Despite the vaccine being less effective at preventing infection, it remains effective at preventing serious illness and death. Mask wearing is still important because it prevents infection, keeping people healthy and providing less stress on hospitals. If you are still unvaccinated it is vital that you visit your local vaccination center to protect yourself and your community.