The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will recommend on Tuesday that vaccinated Americans should wear masks indoors in COVID-19 hotspots.
It is a reversal of the decision the CDC made on May 13, which state fully vaccinated people were safe to unmask indoors in a majority of situations.
Americans who live areas with high virus transmission rates will be expected to mask up indoors, sources told CNBC.
While the CDC hasn’t released specific information on what it considers hot spots, a DailyMail.com analysis of Johns Hopkins data shows that cases of the virus are increasing rapidly in states such as Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas
The CDC’s recommendations are not binding – and no states are required to listen to the agency – but guidance often informs policy decisions made across the country at the state and local levels.
The new guidance comes as cases across the United States are growing once again due to the highly contagious Indian ‘Delta’ variant.
Over the past month, the average new daily cases across the country have increased by 376 percent, from 11,887 on June 26 to 56,635 on July 26.
The CDC is expected to make the announcement at a press briefing that will be helped at 3pm ET.
CDC will recommend on Tuesday that fully vaccinated Americans put masks back on indoors in COVID-19 hotspots. Pictured: People wear face coverings as they pass through Union Station in Los Angeles, California, July 2021
Data show that virus transmission (dark red) is increasing rapidly in states such as Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas
Cases in the U.S. have increased by 376% in the past month, largely because of the Delta variant
‘The public health leaders in our administration have made the determination based on data, that [this] is a way to make sure [Americans] are protected, their loved ones are protected, and that’s an extra step, given the transmissibility of the virus,’ Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary said during a news conference Tuesday.
In March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, the CDC recommended that Americans not wear masks.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, says during an appearance on CBS’s 60 Minutes on March 8: ‘There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask
The agency later admitted it feared the public civilians would horde existing supply of masks, exacerbating a PPE shortage in hospitals.
On April 3, the CDC reversed the decision and recommended Americans wear masks in public areas due to increased understanding about the spread of the virus via airborne droplets.
THE CDC’S EVOLVING GUIDANCE ON MASKS FOR AMERICANS (AND THEIR U-TURNS)
- March 2020: The CDC recommends that Americans do not wear masks – the agency feared civilians would horde existing supply of masks, exacerbating a PPE shortage
- March 8, 2020: Dr Anthony Fauci says during an appearance on CBS’s 60 Minutes: ‘There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask. When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is.’
- April 3, 2020: CDC reverses decision, recommending Americans wear masks in public areas
- July 14, 2020: CDC reaffirms support for masks, publishes data showing masks prevent the spread of COVID
- December 11, 2020: Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine becomes first for COVID to receive FDA emergency use authorization
- April 27, 2021: CDC says fully vaccinated Americans do not have to wear masks outdoors
- May 13, 2021: CDC says those who are fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks indoors in most situations
- July 27, 2021: Agency reverses previous mask decision, recommending vaccinated people put masks back in hot spots amid surge of Delta variant
It wasn’t until one year later, in April 2021, the the CDC said fully vaccinated Americans did not have to wear masks outdoors due to risk of outdoor transmission being less than 0.1 percent.
Just two months ago, the CDC said those who are fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks indoors in most situations.
However, the spread of the Delta variant appears to have played a role in the partial reversal of this recommendation.
The CDC’s initial decision to lift the mask mandate in May was met with some pushback from health experts.
Some, like Dr Fauci, said that it was confusing guidance that may make some believe the pandemic is over.
Others feared that unvaccinated Americans would unmask despite not being protected from the virus.
Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, defended the decision, though, pointing to data that serious cases among fully vaccinated people were rare at the time.
Currently, around 56 percent of Americans have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and half of the country is fully vaccinated.
That means that more than 40 percent of Americans, and 30 percent of adults, are not vaccinated at all.
America’s vaccine rollout has slowed as well in recent months.
In early April, almost 3.5 millions shots were being distributed every day.
In the time since, vaccine distribution has slowly declined, grinding to a near halt at this point.
Under a half-million shots are being distributed every day at this point, with the country still far away from herd immunity.
President Joe Biden set a target of getting at least 70 percent of Americans vaccinated by July 4, which the country failed to hit.
Since, the federal government has launched a wider effort to get people vaccinated, eve supporting door-to-door vaccination outreach in some states.
A large portion of unvaccinated people are congregated in a few areas in the U.S. south and the northwestern plains.
States with low vaccination rates, like Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas are getting hammered by the variant.
Some pockets of Florida, a state with a comparatively higher vaccination rate of over 50 percent, is getting slammed as well.
An analysis from last week found that just Missouri, Florida and Texas alone account for 40 percent of active cases.
In Missouri, cases have increased by 77 percent in the past two weeks, from 1,371 average daily cases on July 12 to 2,427 on July 26.
Southwest Missouri was also among the first regions in the nation to get slammed by the Delta variant in late June.
Only 48 percent of Missourians have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Florida has experienced a 208 percent increase over the past two weeks, from 10,452 cases on July 23 to 3,392 cases on July 9.
While Florida’s 57 percent vaccination rate is just below the nationwide pace, it is a high mark among states experiencing COVID surges.
In Texas, a 179 percent increase in new cases has caused the new daily average to jump from 1,975 on July 12, to 5,521 on July 26.
Just over 50 percent of Texans have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Louisiana, which has the second lowest vaccination rate in the nation at only 41 percent, has seen a 128 percent increase in cases over 14 days.
In Arkansas, which is also among the least vaccinated states at only 46 percent of residents receiving at least one shot, cases have increased by 91 percent over the past two weeks.
Those who live in those pockets will be expected to wear masks indoors again, per the CDC guidance.
There have also been some doubts over how protected some people who are vaccinated are from the Delta variant.
Data from Israel, where a majority of people have received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, shows the variant could regularly cause ‘breakthrough’ cases among the fully vaccinated.
There has also been a rise in Delta breakthrough cases in the United States.
The variant accounts for around 70 percent of active cases in the country.
Despite the increase in breakthrough cases, though, the amount of fully vaccinated people suffering from serious cases of the virus is still low.
In Los Angeles, where the county actually brought back a mask mandate after rolling it back over the summer, officials said last week that all hospitalizations were among unvaccinated people.
In Maryland, every single one of the 92 COVID deaths recorded in the state in June were among unvaccinated people.
Also, 93 percent of hospitalizations were among the unvaccinated.
Nationwide, 99 percent of COVID-19 deaths from the month of May were among unvaccinated people.