Atlanta, GA ­– CDC Director Rachel Walensky announced new mask guidelines Tuesday. Fully vaccinated people should wear masks indoors where there is the “chance of a breakthrough infection”.
“The Delta variant is showing every day it’s willingness to outsmart us and to be an opportunist in areas where we have not shown a fortified response against it. This week our data shows the Delta variant is the predominant variant circulating in the United States,” Walensky said.
“Information on the delta from several states and other countries indicate that in rare occasions someone infected with the Delta variant after they are vaccinated may be contagious and spread the virus to others.”
Walensky called the news “worrisome” but said the risk of Delta infection is reduced by seven times in vaccinated people and by a factor of 20 for hospitalizations and deaths.
“As the CDC has recommended for months, unvaccinated individuals should get vaccinated and continue masking until they are fully vaccinated. In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant and protect others. This includes schools.
CDC recommends that everyone in k-12 schools wear a mask indoor including teachers, staff, students, and visitors regardless of vaccination status.”
Walensky said community leaders should encourage vaccination and universal masking to prevent further outbreaks in areas of substantial and high transmission. Most of Middle Tennessee is now at high risk.
“With the delta variant, vaccinating more Americans now is more urgent than ever. The highest spread of cases and severe outcomes is happening in places with low vaccination rates and among unvaccinated people,” she said.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said Monday that local officials would make decisions about mask mandates in consultation with the Department of Health. Right now, Shelby County Schools is one of the few districts requiring students to wear masks. Davidson County Board of Education announced a new protocol June 14, making masks voluntary outside and inside if social distancing is observed.
Tennessee has been an outlier when it comes to following CDC Covid-19 guidelines. Last week governor Bill Lee said that parents need to make the decision about whether to vaccinate their children. He pointedly did not recommend that kids 12-17 get the shot, as CDC has recommended.
Lee said he supported the firing of Dr. Michelle Fiscus but didn’t make the decision himself. Fiscus was the medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs at the Tennessee Department of Health. She was the state’s leading vaccination expert but fell afoul of Republican in the Legislature who thought she went too far advocating the COVID-19 vaccines for children.