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The CDC Updated Its COVID-19 Guidance. Here's What You Need to Know

You can achieve a boost in filtration efficiency by wearing a two-layer mask with a pocket for a filter, says Gandhi. Insert a surgical mask or a carbon filter in that pocket.
You can achieve a boost in filtration efficiency by wearing a two-layer mask with a pocket for a filter, says Gandhi. Insert a surgical mask or a carbon filter in that pocket.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday reversed course on its mask guidance, once again suggesting all individuals wear masks indoors in areas where COVID-19 cases are surging.

Here’s what else we learned from CDC Director Rochelle Walensky:

  • Vaccinated people represent a “very small amount of transmission” in the U.S. Vaccines provide an estimated 7-fold reduction in risk of infection from the more contagious delta variant, and a 20-fold reduction in risk of hospitalization or death.
  • The delta variant now makes up eight of 10 new COVID cases nationwide.

  • On rare occasions, a vaccinated person can contract the delta variant. Ongoing CDC investigations suggest that people with breakthrough infections with the delta variant may be contagious.

  • In areas with “high or substantial transmission,” the CDC recommends all individuals, including those who are vaccinated, wear masks in indoor settings.

  • CDC recommends everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

  • With only 30 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 fully vaccinated and schools starting to return, the new mask recommendation is intended to keep students and staff safe. Children under 12 are still not eligible for the vaccine.

  • CDC officials say children should return to in-person learning full-time in the fall but with protections in place.

  • The vaccines that are currently available offer significant protection against existing variants. The concern is that if cases continue to surge, new variants could arise that may be able to evade vaccines.

So how do you know if you live in an area of high or substantial spread? The CDC has a map that classifies every county as either low, moderate, substantial or high rate of transmission. The map is based on the total new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days.

Nearly half of the counties in the U.S. — 1,495 — have a high level of community transmission, according to the CDC map. Most of the southern part of the country is at a high level of spread.

Another 548 counties have substantial spread.

The map above reflects CDC transmission data as of July 28, 2021. According to Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Alicia Shoults, this CDC data is based on the date positive COVID-19 cases are reported, and refreshes each day by 8 p.m. for the previous 7-day period.

Every Thursday, the Ohio Department of Health updates statewide and county case rates based on illness onset date of cases during the previous 14-day day period. The latest data is below, showing a statewide average case rate of 77.4 per 100,000 residents; that's up from 45.8 last week.

Other midwestern states show high spread in Indiana and Illinois. The rates of transmission in Wisconsin and Michigan are better, with most counties having moderate spread currently. In Iowa, the state has a mix of moderate, substantial and high levels of spread.

Meanwhile, in Missouri, all but one county have substantial or high rates of transmission. Most counties in Kentucky are either substantial or high spread.

Want to know more about whether you should wear a mask? Check out this guide.

Copyright 2021 Side Effects Public Media. To see more, visit Side Effects Public Media.

Updated: July 29, 2021 at 3:19 PM EDT
This story has been updated with a new map reflecting CDC data on Ohio high transmission areas and the latest case incidence report from the Ohio Department of Health.