State and national health agencies are recommending a partial return to mask-wearing, even for those who have received COVID-19 vaccines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued updated guidelines on Tuesday recommending that everyone, including fully vaccinated individuals, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas with substantial and high transmission. Cook County is at a moderate level of transmission, one step below the substantial level, according to the CDC.
The CDC is also recommending universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) followed suit, announcing it is fully adopting CDC’s masking recommendations.
“While data continues to show the effectiveness of the three COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized in the U.S., including against the Delta variant, we are still seeing the virus rapidly spread among the unvaccinated,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
“Cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 both continue to increase, overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated, but the risk is greater for everyone if we do not stop the ongoing spread of the virus and the Delta variant,” she said. “We know masking can help prevent transmission of COVID-19 and its variants.
“Until more people are vaccinated, we join CDC in recommending everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask indoors in areas of substantial and high transmissions, and in K-12 schools,” the doctor advised.
According to CDC, data show the Delta variant is much more contagious than the original strain of the virus that causes COVID-19. Delta spreads more than twice as easily from one person to another compared to other strains. According to CDC, the Delta variant is causing some vaccine breakthrough infections, but even so, most breakthrough infections are mild, and the vaccines are preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death.
Areas of substantial transmission are considered by CDC to be those with 50 to 99 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period. Areas of high transmission are considered to be those with more than 100 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period.
The community level of transmission can be found online.
IDPH will be updating school FAQs and other guidance posted online to reflect the latest CDC Interim Public Health Recommendations for Full Vaccinated People.