Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8–3–2021: What the CDC’s new mask guidance actually says and means

Since there was so much confusion that resulted from the last time the CDC updated its mask guidance for the fully vaccinated, I thought it best to take a look at its most recent pronouncement, explain exactly what it means, and detail whom the CDC recommends should now be masking up indoors.

According to the CDC, the fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission, meaning 50 or more cases per 100,000 people. For the unvaccinated, the guidance remains as it always has been—mask up indoors and in most cases outdoors.

What is an "area of substantial or high transmission? As of today, any county colored orange or red on this map. 

Nearly 80 percent of all counties in the United States meet this definition.

Why is the CDC making this recommendation? Because while the vaccine still does a great job protecting the fully vaccinated from breakthrough infections and an even better job of protecting from serious infections and death, "preliminary evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people who do become infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to others." As has always been the case, we mask up to protect others.

Is this mandatory? No. Have any governments reinstituted mask mandates? So, far, only Louisiana (which is entirely red), and some California counties. Will more follow suit? Probably, but not nearly enough. But, the CDC has spoken, and some large employers (e.g.., Apple, Giant Eagle, and many universities about to return for the fall semester) are following suit for employees and customers with renewed mask mandates for employees and customers. Others, like Target and Walmart, are reinstituting mask mandates for employees while merely strongly recommending them for shoppers.

What does this mean for your business? Take a look at the map. If you're in a county that's orange or red, it's time to revisit your mask rules regardless of what your state or locality requires. We can still slow the ebb of the current Delta-fueled surge, but we need to follow best practices on vaccines and masks. Otherwise, this will get a lot worse before it gets any better. And frankly, we're all sick of things getting worse.