Are CDC updated mask guidelines necessary for Delta variant?
- The Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) announced new guidelines for vaccinated people as the Delta variant spreads. It is recommended to wear a mask in public indoor areas with high transmission rates, to get tested if experiencing symptoms, and follow regular protocols for exposure.
- The Delta variant of COVID-19 first arose in India at the end of 2020, and has recently spread to countries across the globe. The current variant is reported to have a shorter incubation period of four days rather than six days with a higher number of viruses making it much more aggressive than the original virus.
- CNN Health reports that since January 2020, there have been over 34 million COVID cases and almost 612 thousand deaths.
- The CDC reports that from 2019-2020 (the 2020 year ended April 4th), there were an estimated 39-56 million cases of influenza which accounted for an estimated 24-62 thousand deaths.
Considering the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the CDC has released new guidelines for individuals who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Two of these guidelines are as follows: 'CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status,' and 'a recommendation for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.'
Firstly, all US COVID vaccines are effective against the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus (ALA). While there are breakthrough cases of COVID-19 in vaccinated individuals, these cases are expected, and the overwhelming majority of the breakthrough cases are only mild symptoms (NBC). Secondly, while the Delta Variant is nothing to scoff at, of the COVID-19 deaths in the US, 99% of them are among unvaccinated individuals. Furthermore, all vaccines have a 94% effectiveness against hospitalizations from the COVID-19 virus (CDC). Thirdly, masks have proven to be only slightly effective against COVID-19. Masks are 67% effective, with penetration at 97% for cloth masks and 44% for medical masks such as the N95. (Science Direct) (BMJ)
Masks are only slightly effective against the virus, and the COVID-19 vaccines are effective even against the Delta variant. All this is not to argue that individuals not wear masks. Rather, this shows how unnecessary it is for a fully vaccinated individual to wear one. While masks should not be government-mandated, individuals who are not vaccinated should get vaccinated or wear a mask, specifically a medical mask, proven to be far more effective than a cloth mask.
Only about 49% of Americans have been fully vaccinated, and there's no concrete method of proving who is. With over half the population unvaccinated and many public spaces being maskless or mask-optional, the country is still collectively at high risk for contracting COVID-19.
CDC's update comes after the frightening Delta variant causes over 80% of new cases. Delta functions 'uniquely different' than other COVID variants in several ways. Natural immunity to previous variants doesn't protect against Delta. Vaccinated individuals are even more susceptible to the variant than the original virus, and they may be spreading it, too. In addition, those infected with Delta are 'more contagious and for longer.' While the population waits for more individuals to be fully vaccinated, continuing to cover our faces remains in the public's best interest.
As gatherings without masks become riskier, the pandemic only perpetuates despite the population's fatigue. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says, 'Not only are people tired, they're frustrated.' Restrictions and regulations are frustrating for all Americans, yet the virus is unrelenting with daily infections expected to peak this August. Permanently halting the virus spread and moving on from the pandemic commands taking the strictest precautions available to us. This is and always has been a life or death matter; it's best to act safely now.
The CDC explains how the benefits of vaccination offset any risks. With this update, press secretary Jen Psaki recognizes the CDC playing its part to 'provide guidance to the American public.' Misinformation is also spreading rapidly, so it's right for an authorized entity like the CDC to step in and insist on public safety.