WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a reversal of an earlier guidance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.
CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky announced the updated guidance while providing an update to the media on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday afternoon.
“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 to protect others,” said Walensky.
As of Tuesday, Arizona has 12 of its 15 counties that are currently in "substantial" or "high" transmission rates, including Maricopa and Pinal counties.
Click here to see a CDC map that shows each county's transmission rate.
Walensky said the CDC is also recommending that everyone in K-12 schools wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status. That includes students, staff, and visitors.
“CDC recommends that everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask indoors, including teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status,” said Walensky.
The new recommendations come as parts of the country see COVID-19 cases climb due in large part to the rise in the more transmissible delta variant.
Walensky said the CDC decided to change its mask recommendations because of new data that shows some people infected with the delta variant even after being vaccinated can spread the virus to others.
“In recent days, I have seen new scientific data from recent outbreak investigations showing that the delta variant behaves uniquely differently from past strains of the virus that cause COVID-19,” said Walensky. “Information on the delta variant from several states and countries indicates that in rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others. This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations.”
This mask update comes more than two months after the CDC announced that vaccinated Americans didn’t need to wear face coverings indoors or outdoors because of the protection from the vaccines. At that time, the delta variant hadn’t taken hold of the nation and cases were steadily dropping.