The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that even vaccinated Americans resume wearing masks indoors if they are in areas with high transmissibility of the COVID-19 virus.
The guidance also recommends that people with underlying conditions that may make them more susceptible to the coronavirus wear masks, along with anyone residing with vulnerable people. Teachers, school staff, students and visitors inside schools from kindergarten to 12th grade also fall under new guidance recommending universal mask-wearking.
For vaccinated people in just under half of the counties in the country —which have high transmissibility — that means masks are recommended to be commonplace indoors once again.
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Several counties with major U.S. urban centers, including Los Angeles, St. Louis and Miami-Dade, are among the high transmission counties.
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Here's what transmissibility is and how to find out if you're in an area where you should start masking indoors again.
What is high transmissibility?
Community transmission is calculated using two metrics: how many new cases per 100,000 persons have occurred in the last seven days, and the percentage of positive diagnostic and screening nucleic acid amplification tests in the last seven days. Counties are categorized as having low, moderate, substantial or high transmissibility.
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Transmissibility is considered high when there are 100 or more new cases per 100,000 in the last seven days and 10% or higher positive NAATs in that period. A high transmission designation can vary, with places like Salt Lake County in Utah at just over 100 cases per 100,000, to counties like Pulaski County in Arkansas, which has nearly 500 cases per 100,000.
The delta variant, which continues to make up more than 80% of new infections in the U.S., is more than two times as transmissible than the original strains of COVID-19, and experts believe it could cause vaccinated people to be contagious.
"This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations," CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a briefing Tuesday.
Where is COVID spreading at a high rate?
Just under half of all U.S. counties, 46.43%, are currently identified as having high COVID transmission, according to the CDC, an increase of over 17% from seven days ago.
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A man wears an American flag face mask on July 19, 2021 on a street in Los Angeles on the second day of the return of the indoor mask mandate in Los Angeles County due to a spike in coronavirus cases. The US surgeon general on July 18 defended a renewed mask mandate in Los Angeles, saying other areas may have to follow and adding that he is "deeply concerned" about the Covid-19 outlook in the fall. LA County reported another 1,233 Covid-19 cases, the 11th consecutive day the number has topped 1,000.
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People wear face coverings as they pass through Union Station on July 19, 2021 in Los Angeles,. A new mask mandate went into effect just before midnight on July 17 in Los Angeles County requiring all people, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a face covering in public indoor spaces amid a troubling rise in COVID-19 cases.
Fans wearing masks enter Dodger Stadium on July 19, 2021 for a game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants.
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People gather in Grand Central Market on July 19, 2021 in Los Angeles. A new mask mandate went into effect just before midnight on July 17th in Los Angeles County requiring all people, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a face covering in public indoor spaces amid a troubling rise in COVID-19 cases.
Employees check out customers at 2nd Street second hand store Monday, July 19, 2021, in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. Los Angeles County has reinstated an indoor mask mandate due to rising COVID-19 cases.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The CDC is recommending masks for vaccinated people in high transmission areas. What does that mean?
Overnight Health Care: Delta fears grip economy as US cases jump | Pediatric group recommends masks for students over 2 | Federal judge will not block Indiana University's vaccine mandate .
Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care. It's not a baby whale. A giant multi-colored fish washed ashore in Oregon, in what was big news for the local aquarium. If you have any tips, email us at [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected] us on Twitter at @NateWeixel, @PeterSullivan4, and @JustineColeman8. Today: The stock market plunged amid concerns over the delta variant. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended universal mask wearing for all students older than 2 years old, and a federal judge decided not to block Indiana University's vaccine requirement.