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Masking guidance unchanged as Delta variant sweeps US: CDC director

The Delta variant, which was first found in India, now comprises more than 80% of the new cases in the US.

On Wednesday, the governor mocked new federal guidelines recommending use of masks even for those vaccinated against COVID-19. (Photo: Reuters)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not revised its masking guidance, even as the Delta variant of the coronavirus sweeps the United States, driving up infections, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said on Thursday.

Walensky declined to say if the CDC is considering changing the guidance. The CDC in May relaxed its guidance so that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most public spaces. Her comments coincided with reports that the administration officials were discussing whether to shift guidance about masking in response to outbreaks caused by the Delta variant.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said such a decision would be made by the CDC, and President Joe Biden said experts were studying any necessary changes. “What they’re doing is they’re … investigating every aspect of any change that could or might take place,” Biden told
reporters at the White House. “We follow the science.”

The president said on Wednesday that the CDC is likely to advise unvaccinated children to wear masks in school as districts around the country prepare to reopen for the coming school year.

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The seven-day average of new cases in the United States is up 53% over the previous week, Walensky said. The Delta variant, which was first found in India, now comprises more than 80% of new cases nationwide and has been detected in more than 90 countries. Some hospitals around the United States are reaching their capacity limits as cases of COVID-19 continue to surge, Walensky said.

The uptick in cases is concentrated in regions with lower vaccination rates. Florida, Texas and Missouri account for 40% of all new cases nationwide, with around 1 in 5 of all new US cases occurring in Florida, White House COVID-19 task force director Jeffrey Zients said. Zients said that the United States will continue to distribute tens of millions of COVID-19 vaccines around the world.

The White House in June announced plans to distribute around 80 million COVID-19 vaccines globally. Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said there is no reason for people who received Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine to assume that they need to get an additional
shot of Pfizer Inc’s or Moderna Inc’s vaccines to protect themselves against new variants of the virus.

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The CDC and US Food and Drug Administration are reviewing data to see if there is waning immunity in vaccinated people to determine if additional booster shots are needed.

First published on: 23-07-2021 at 11:54 IST
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