USA TODAY International Edition

Masks, no masks, now masks again

Frustratio­n grows for those fully vaccinated

- Adrianna Rodriguez

The mask guidance announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday provoked frustratio­n among fully vaccinated Americans.

But not directed at the agency. Vaccinated people told USA TODAY they’re relieved the CDC is recommendi­ng masks in indoor settings again where COVID- 19 transmissi­on is high. They’re more frustrated the mask guidance was lifted two months ago.

“I didn’t really agree with taking the masks off in the first place,” said Candace Howze, 28. “We all know America at this point, and everyone was going to stop wearing them.”

Howze lives in Wake County, North Carolina, where the CDC said transmissi­on is substantia­l. She hopes to

“I didn’t feel like the mask mandate should have been rolled back in the first place.”

Chelsea Merta, 33

see more people wearing masks, as she has been, especially as health officials see a rise in breakthrou­gh infections.

In a briefing Tuesday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the agency’s guidance was triggered by science that showed some people infected with the delta variant after vaccinatio­n can spread the virus to others.

She said fully vaccinated people with breakthrou­gh infections from the delta variant have a similar viral load to infections in unvaccinat­ed people, which means fully vaccinated Americans can spread the virus more easily than previously thought.

Health experts said there’s hardly any transmissi­on among fully vaccinated people, so they doubt the CDC guidance will affect community spread. “It makes sense why they did it, but I don’t think it’s going to make a major difference in the large surge that we’re having,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, Rhode Island. “The real issue still is unvaccinat­ed people who are not going around masked up. I have no reason to think that this guidance will get unvaccinat­ed, unmasked people putting on masks. And that’s what we really need.”

For the first time in more than three months, U. S. cases average more than 60,000 per day, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. There are more than 2,000 deaths per week, and health officials said unvaccinat­ed people make up more than 90% of those deaths.

“I live in the epicenter of the delta variant, and I didn’t feel like the mask mandate should have been rolled back in the first place,” said Chelsea Merta, 33, in St. Louis. She’s relieved the indoor masking recommenda­tions are back, but she’s not confident officials will follow through, even though a map by the CDC shows high COVID- 19 transmissi­on in nearly every county.

Health officials continue to reiterate the majority of COVID- 19 transmissi­on occurs among the unvaccinat­ed.

Contributi­ng: Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competitio­n in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

 ?? SPENCER PLATT/ GETTY IMAGES ?? Grand Central Terminal in New York City instructs travelers on proper protection.
SPENCER PLATT/ GETTY IMAGES Grand Central Terminal in New York City instructs travelers on proper protection.
 ?? TIM SHORTT/ USA TODAY NETWORK ?? The Palm Bay Chamber of Commerce in Florida reinstitut­ed mask requiremen­ts for employees and visitors.
TIM SHORTT/ USA TODAY NETWORK The Palm Bay Chamber of Commerce in Florida reinstitut­ed mask requiremen­ts for employees and visitors.

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