CDC expected to backpedal some mask guidelines for vaccinated people

The nation’s top health agency is expected to backpedal on its masking guidelines on Tuesday and recommend that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in parts of the US where the coronavirus is surging, according to US media reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to make an announcement later in the day revising guidance issued on 13 May, which said vaccinated individuals did not need to wear masks in most indoor settings.

The guidance still called for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it cleared the way for reopening workplaces and other venues. Subsequent CDC guidance said fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks at summer camps or at schools, either.

For months Covid cases, deaths and hospitalizations were falling steadily, but the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus has fueled steep rises in case numbers, particularly among unvaccinated Americans and amid struggles with disinformation and resistance, particularly on the political right.

“Nobody wants to go backward but you have to deal with the facts on the ground, and the facts on the ground are that it’s a pretty scary time and there are a lot of vulnerable people,” Robert Wachter, chairman of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told the Washington Post.

“I think the biggest thing we got wrong was not anticipating that 30% of the country would choose not to be vaccinated.”

In recent weeks, a growing number of cities and towns have restored indoor masking rules. St Louis, Savannah, Georgia, and Provincetown, Massachusetts, are among the places that reimposed mask mandates this month.

At a White House briefing last week, the surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, said 97% of hospital admissions and 99.5% of Covid deaths were occurring among unvaccinated people.

More than 162.7 million Americans are vaccinated – or 49% of the population, according to the CDC.

California and New York City announced on Monday that they would require all government employees to get the coronavirus vaccine or face weekly Covid-19 testing, and the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to require healthcare workers to receive the shot.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all municipal workers – including teachers and police officers – will be required to get vaccinated by mid-September or face weekly Covid-19 testing, making the city one of the largest employers in the US to take such action.

“Let’s be clear about why this is so important: this is about our recovery,” De Blasio said.

California said it will similarly require proof of vaccination or weekly testing for all state workers and healthcare employees starting next month.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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