July 29, 2021

CDC Recommends Vaccinated People Wear Face Coverings Indoors in Areas of Substantial COVID-19 Transmission

CDC released updated guidance on July 27 that recommends vaccinated individuals in areas of substantial community transmission of COVID-19 wear face coverings in public indoor settings. The new guidance reverses CDC’s guidance from May, which said that vaccinated people did not need to wear face coverings.

According to a new CDC report, substantial transmission exists in areas where, over the preceding 7 days, new cases of COVID-19 exceed 50 per 100,000 population or positive nucleic acid amplification tests for SARS-CoV-2 exceed 8 percent. The agency recommends that decisions regarding face covering requirements and other prevention strategies be made at the county level and reassessed on a weekly basis. Prevention strategies should be relaxed only after several weeks of continuous improvement in transmission levels.

CDC also recommends that vaccinated people wear face coverings in public indoor spaces regardless of community transmission level if someone in their household is immunocompromised or unvaccinated.

The United States is experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant, which is more than twice as transmissible as the strains of SARS-CoV-2 that were circulating earlier in the pandemic, according to the CDC report. From June 19 through July 23, COVID-19 cases increased approximately 300 percent. The most recent agency data indicate that the 7-day moving average of new cases in the U.S. was nearly 57,000 on July 26, the highest level in three months. The estimated percentage of cases attributable to the Delta variant grew from 10.3 percent on June 5 to 82 percent on July 17. Emerging evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people can spread the Delta variant, according to CDC.

Also contributing to the surge of cases is a slowing rate of vaccination. According to the CDC report, 48.9 percent of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated, and vaccination rates vary widely across the U.S. Only 14.2 percent of the counties that report COVID-19 data to CDC have vaccination rates of greater than 50 percent. The agency recommends that employers allow workers time to receive the vaccine during work hours.